71
      Tuesday
      91 / 70
      Wednesday
      91 / 69
      Thursday
      92 / 69

      Physically strong, mentally weak

      It was time to make a statement.ESPN GameDay was there, national TV on the BIG one, not a channel that ends with a 2, U or 3.

      Dick Vitale was in the house doing what he does, being loud. He also complained about the lack of food for the media --- they only got popcorn.

      I feel your pain, Dick. I hate when that happens.

      It was all there for the Missouri Tigers on Saturday night in Kentucky, and they certainly did make a statement.

      They showed the world what we already knew --- they don't have the guts to win on the road. There's something to be said for knowing how to win on the road, and these guys don't have it.

      Physically strong, mentally weak. What Tiger fans would give to have Marcus Denmon on this team. Or dare we say, Michael Dixon.

      Forget for a moment about Dixon's baggage (or garbage) off the court. On the court, he had grit, guts and knew how to win. The same goes for Denmon.

      Who's that guy on this year's team?

      This latest meltdown away from Mizzou Arena was a 90-83 overtime loss at Kentucky, when the Tigers blew a 13-point lead.

      Before we go any further --- and in case you didn't know --- this is not the same team Kentucky has had in recent years, a team stocked full of NBA players that left their opponents with slim or no chance.

      Except for the slim part.

      This Kentucky team (19-8, 10-4 SEC) --- which has lost by 30 to Tennessee along with its best player, 6-10 freshman Nerlens Noel (knee) for the season --- is simply average.

      But on the road, Missouri (19-8, 8-6) remains far below average, as they're still winless at 0-7. Okay, technically, they're 1-7, but beating a YMCA team called Mississippi State doesn't count.

      (If you were curious, here's a quick update on our friends from Starkville, Miss.: They've lost 12 straight and they've lost their last two home games --- HOME games --- by a COMBINED 83 POINTS. Is that even possible? So it could always be worse.)

      The Tigers are as frustrating as a teenager going through that "phase." And nobody is more confounding and confusing than Phil Pressey.

      When Pressey is great, he really is great --- he had 27 points, 10 assists and four steals Saturday night.

      "Pressey is one of the best point guards you'll see and plus, he made shots today, so it made it even tougher," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "We tried everything, showing hard, walling up, switching, big guy on him, small guy on him.

      "He still had his way."

      But Pressey is not as great as he thinks he is, obviously, as he continues to make poor decisions down the stretch of close losses --- it's happened five times this season.

      That's five of the team's eight losses --- four of those by a combined 10 points, two in overtime. The other three losses --- to Louisville, Ole Miss and Florida --- Missouri was never even in the conversation, so you can't blame Pressey.

      If you Flip (pun intended) those five losses, well .... 24-3 sounds a lot better than 19-8, doesn't it?

      Pressey --- still ranked the No. 2 point guard in the country by CBS Sports --- missed a shot to win it at the end of regulation and in the closing minute of overtime, he missed an ugly 3-point attempt and had a crucial turnover.

      On the big miss: "We drew up the play and that was the play it came down to," Pressey said. "I shot it and I missed it."

      On the big turnover, when he went airborne and had nowhere to go: "Yeah, I kind of lost the ball, so I had no other choice."

      Pressey was named the SEC Preseason Player of the Year, which is one of these "honors" that are just silly, if not stupid. It's like giving an Oscar for Best Picture before the movie's even made.

      In the end, the Tigers once again found a way to lose a close game, despite a noteworthy 16-point, 15-rebound effort by Alex Oriahki --- his ninth double-double of the season.

      Meanwhile, two must-have players for Missouri, Jabari Brown and Keion Bell, combined to go 5-of-17 from the field and scored just 15 points --- 11 points below their combined averages.

      This problem goes deeper than Pressey.

      "Oh man, I mean we fought hard," Kentucky freshman Archie Goodwin said. "That is what it ultimately came down to. We made a lot of mistakes but at the end, we just wanted it more than they did."

      Disagree. It's really not a case of "want to" for the Tigers.

      They just don't know "how to."

      III Central Bank is giving away two lower-level tickets to Saturday's Missouri-LSU game in Columbia. Individuals can sign up to win these tickets on the Central Bank Facebook page. The winner will be chosen Thursday. Also, Central Bank is offering a great prize package for the SEC Tournament, which will be held March 13-17 in Nashville. The winner will receive two tickets to the entire tournament, hotel accommodations and a travel voucher. You become eligible to win this prize package when you open a Tiger Checking Account at Central Bank.