BATON ROUGE, La. • Mizzou had the traction of back-to-back wins behind it, and the 17th-ranked Tigers presumably would get a surge from the return of star forward Laurence Bowers after he’d missed five games because of a knee injury as they played Wednesday at Southeastern Conference cellar-dweller LSU.
But nothing is certain for this strange brew of a team that succumbed to its season-long road disorder, falling 73-70 at the Maravich Center following another abominable start and after a frenzied but ultimately futile rally.
After stumbling behind by double digits in the first half for the fourth time in four true road games, MU now is 0-4 in those and just 3-5 when including neutral site games away from Mizzou Arena.
“We have no toughness in the first half; we have no resolve,” MU coach Frank Haith said. “It’s disappointing. It’s really extremely disappointing.”
Haith, whose team never led in the game, maintained a poised demeanor but clearly was seething afterward.
“We’re not a great listening team right now. And that’s something we’ve got to get better at,” he said. “Guys are tending to do their own thing when the game’s getting tight or there’s adversity.
“We’ve got to somehow become a better listening team, OK?”
And that evidently includes as much as anyone junior guard Phil Pressey, the SEC preseason player of the year and lone returnee from last season who led MU with 25 points but made just one of nine 3-pointers.
He is now six of 33 on 3s in SEC play.
One play in particular rankled Haith: Pressey’s inexplicably hurried 3-point attempt with 42 seconds left — which came just seven seconds after Anthony Hickey’s free throw gave Louisiana State a 66-63 lead.
“We (had been) driving the ball, and we needed to keep driving the ball,” Haith said, noting there was plenty of time left. “We said that in timeouts.”
Mizzou fell to 15-5 overall and 4-3 in SEC play. Before an announced crowd of 8,804, LSU improved to 11-7 and 2-5 with its first win over a ranked SEC team in 14 tries.
The Tigers outrebounded LSU 39-26, but it wasn’t enough to make up for defensive lapses that allowed LSU to shoot 55.6 percent from the field (25 of 45), a wretched start and what Bowers called “bonehead” plays down the stretch.
“We didn’t execute, and it bit us, and we lost,” said Bowers, who had 10 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes. “We just didn’t do what we needed to do.”
LSU led 39-26 at halftime as it hit 14 of 25 field goals and Mizzou managed just seven of 26.
“We shot quickly, again, and then our transition defense was very poor,” Haith said.
Early in the second half, things turned even more bleak for MU when forward Alex Oriakhi picked up his third foul and MU went down 46-30 on two more in a night-long spree of LSU layups.
Oriakhi, who had 18 points in each of MU’s past two home games, would end the night with one point, three rebounds and four fouls. He has a cumulative total of nine points and 11 rebounds in three SEC road games combined.
“He can’t stay on the floor on the road,” Haith said.
Yet sparked by eight straight Pressey points, Mizzou mustered a 12-0 run to cut the margin to 46-42 and set in motion a frantic finish that started with Pressey’s assist on a 3-pointer by Jabari Brown (19 points) with 1:05 left to cut LSU’s lead to 65-63.
Hickey, who earlier had scored seven straight points, then made the front end of a one-and-one with 49.5 seconds left but missed the second, leaving it a one-possession game at 66-63.
Pressey then took the quick 3 and misfired, and MU had to foul again, putting Andre Stringer on the line with 38.5 to go.
“When you’re taking quick shots, and you’re not executing what we want you to execute,” Haith said before redirecting himself, “Just run the offense. That’s all we want you to do. Just run the offense.”
Stringer hit both shots, making it 68-63. But with hope fading for MU Earnest Ross hit a 3 with 32.6 to go to to make it 68-66.
And LSU kept giving MU an escape route.
LSU’s Johnny O’Bryant was left alone on the ensuing inbound pass and made a layup but couldn’t convert the free throw after Negus Webster-Chan fouled him.
Pressey countered with a layup … as he did again with 14.6 left after O’Bryant hit two free throws.
Brown fouled LSU’s Shavon Coleman in the backcourt with 13.2 left, and Coleman left the door open for a tying MU 3 by making only one of two.
Pressey, though, missed another 3 with under 10 seconds left.
Coleman again left MU with a chance by missing two more free throws with 4.1 seconds left but Ross couldn’t get a shot off before the buzzer.
Mizzou was without guard Keion Bell, who suffered a shoulder injury in practice on Monday. Even Bell didn’t seem exempt from Haith’s apparent frustration.
“Keion nicked his shoulder up in practice and went and got it checked out,” Haith said. “There was no sprain, no strain, no structural damage. It hurt him too bad to play. He said it just hurt too bad for him to play.”