Mizzou seeks first SEC road win at LSU

(AP) — Missouri has its first back-to-back wins in SEC play, but is still in pursuit of its first road victory of the season.

A visit to last-place LSU could help end that drought, and so might the possible return of leading scorer Laurence Bowers.

The senior forward could end a five-game absence Wednesday night as 17th-ranked Missouri goes for a third straight victory.

Missouri (15-4, 4-2) is 3-2 without Bowers, who was averaging 16.8 points on 58.1 percent shooting before spraining his right MCL earlier this month. The two defeats came in visits to the conference’s top two teams, Florida and Mississippi.

“You take a great player out of your lineup who’s been a focal point of what you do and then you have to get adjusted,” coach Frank Haith said. “It took us a couple of games to get adjusted and we’ve gotten better.”

After rallying past South Carolina on Jan. 22, Missouri had one of its best performances of the season in Saturday’s 81-59 win over Vanderbilt, shooting 54.9 percent and going 11 of 21 from 3-point range.

Jabari Brown led the way with 21 points, boosting his team-best average in SEC play to 17.3, while senior forward Alex Oriakhi had 18 points and double-digit rebounds for the second straight contest.

Oriakhi, who spent his first three seasons at Connecticut, is five points away from 1,000 in his collegiate career, and he might get some help on the inside if Bowers can return. Should that happen, it would mark only the third time this season Missouri has had a full complement of players.

“It’s going to come down to my confidence (in Bowers). He’s going to practice the next two days,” Haith said Monday. “I anticipate he’s going to have a shot at (playing).”

Either way, Missouri is hoping to get off to a better start on the road. The Tigers have averaged 22.5 points in the first half in their two SEC road contests. In their only other road game, they kept pace with UCLA on Dec. 28 but ultimately lost 97-94 in overtime.

Missouri could do a better job of taking care of the ball as it’s averaging a league-worst 19.0 turnovers on opponents’ courts. Junior point guard and SEC preseason player of the year Phil Pressey committed a career-worst 10 while scoring two points in an 83-52 drubbing at then-No. 10 Florida on Jan. 19.

He could have a challenge Wednesday if he’s matched up with Anthony Hickey, the nation’s leader with 3.8 steals per contest. LSU is among the SEC leaders with an average of 17.1 turnovers forced, but that hasn’t translated into a strong start to conference play.

LSU (10-7, 1-5) has suffered four of its five league losses by single digits, the lone exception a 74-52 home defeat to Florida on Jan. 12. The Tigers nearly erased a 12-point deficit in the second half Saturday at Kentucky before losing 75-70.

Sophomore forward Johnny O’Bryant III matched a career high with 21 points and is averaging 17.0 over his last three games. Hickey had 15 points and three steals, but leading scorer Shavon Coleman (12.1 ppg) was held to single digits for the fourth time in six contests, shooting 2 of 9 and finishing with eight points.

LSU won its only previous meeting with Missouri in the 1980 NCAA tournament.