COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Last fall, Missouri point guard Phil Pressey was everyone’s preseason favorite for Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and checked in on just about everybody’s preseason All-America teams.
Pressey, the Tigers senior and son of 10-year NBA veteran Paul Pressey, has had a nice year, leading the league in assists (6.8 per) and carding double-digit assists four times, (including a school-record 19 in an overtime loss at UCLA.
By the standards set by those lofty expectations, though, Pressey and the Tigers, fashionable picks to win the SEC in their first league season, have fallen short.
Take Mizzou’s visit to Florida exactly one month ago. The Tigers were flattened by the Gators 83-52 for the program’s worst defeat in five years, as Pressey finished with just two points and a career-worst 10 turnovers.
Which bring us to Tuesday night’s rematch with No. 5 Florida (21-3, 11-1) which is venturing into the hornets nest known as Mizzou Arena, where the Tigers (18-7, 7-5) are unbeaten in 14 games this season, 29-1 under Coach Haith and 81-4 over the last five seasons.
And as if the mere memory of that tough outing in Gainesville wasn't enough, Pressey was reminded about his recent rough stretches -- especially in late-game situations -- in the local papers today.
Headline in The Missourian: “Dropping the ball when the pressure is on”
Headline in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Haith Keeps Showing Faith in Pressey”
Headline in The Jefferson City News-Tribune: “Pressey continues through difficult stretch”
The stories reference Pressey’s road struggles in the league, where in six SEC games he has 30 assists, 33 turnovers and is -- get this -- 1-for-23 from 3-point range (4.3 percent).
“Every single one of those losses are on me. I’m not afraid to say that,” said Pressey, who in Saturday’s loss at Arkansas -- when the Tigers blew a four-point lead in the final minute -- was 2-for-9 from the floor, 0-for-4 from 3-point range, and had two assists and four turnovers. “You can’t complain over spilled milk, you’ve just got to clean it up.”
He’ll have that chance tonight. At home.
Inside Mizzou Arena, Pressey has 46 assists, just 16 turnovers and is 10-for-26 (that’s 34.8 percent) from the arc.
The comfort of being home and motivation of his recent struggles figure to be powerful allies for a very good player who’s had some night-so-very-good moments this season.
“We’ve got to show him confidence and our belief in him,” Haith said. “He’s our guy, so that’s all we can do.”