Missouri forward Laurence Bowers finally looked like he's back to full strength in front of a crowd that was definitely at full strength Tuesday night at Mizzou Arena. The combination helped push the Tigers past No. 5 Florida 63-60 and give Missouri more sturdy footing with tournament time approaching.
The Tigers were never in serious jeopardy of missing the NCAA tournament but their inability to win games on the road in Southeastern Conference play has definitely caused them to slip when it comes to seeding. Beating the Gators will help their cause and if Bowers can build on his impressive double-double with more outings like it down the stretch of the regular season and in the conference tournament, Missouri should be well-positioned when the madness begins.
Bowers didn't play the last time these teams met when Florida embarrassed the Tigers with a 31-point beating. Bowers didn't make up that difference entirely by himself, but he did score 17 points with 10 rebounds and he hit the shot that gave Missouri the lead for good in the final 90 seconds. Junior point guard Phil Pressey played more unselfishly this time around, looking more like his sophomore self, which certainly helped. Pressey had 10 turnovers in the first game at Florida but had 10 assists in this one.
But Bowers controlled the paint for the Tigers this time around and that is often needed to beat Florida.
Some of the energy and enthusiasm from the win was immediately doused when coach Frank Haith acknowledged afterward that he has received a notice of allegations from the NCAA concerning alleged major rules violations during his tenure as the head coach at the University of Miami.
Haith told reporters that he has is looking forward to defending himself. He also said he is relieved to finally know what he is facing and that the end of the process is near after nearly two years of speculation since a Yahoo! Sports report first revealed accusations of major rules violations in the Miami athletic department.
#Mizzou' Frank Haith said he has received a notice of allegations but contrary to earlier reports there's no unethical conduct charge
— Steve Walentik (@Steve_Walentik) February 20, 2013
Florida looked invincible in the SEC through the first eight games of conference play, including its 83-52 beat down of the Tigers back in mid-January, but it has shown at least a little vulnerability losing two of its past five games on the road at Arkansas and Missouri.
The Gators are still unquestionably the class of the league and should be either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament next month if they finish the season strong and don't get surprised by an underdog in the conference tournament. They are a more likely No. 2 seed at this point considering the two recent losses and the fact that they have been the only consistently strong team in a weak conference this season.