Missouri has endured injuries and some potentially distracting news involving its coach during its inaugural SEC season, but has maintained a perfect record at home.
While those distractions may have subsided for now, perhaps even better news for the 22nd-ranked Tigers would be getting leading scorer Laurence Bowers and guard Keion Bell back in time for Saturday's visit from Vanderbilt.
Missouri (14-4, 3-2) has only four players who have appeared in every game and has played its past four contests without Bowers, who was averaging 16.8 points before spraining his right MCL.
The Tigers have gone 2-2 in the senior's absence and needed a second-half surge Tuesday to improve to 11-0 at Mizzou Arena with a 71-65 win over South Carolina. Earnest Ross, who had a season-high 21 points despite dealing with back issues, hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 1:10 remaining, and Jabari Brown hit another one with 14 seconds left to put the game away.
Alex Oriakhi matched a career best with 18 points and Brown scored 17 while helping their team rally from a 13-point deficit in the second half.
The Tigers headed into that game after a CBSSports.com report Monday said coach Frank Haith would face NCAA charges of "unethical conduct" and "failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance" stemming from his time at Miami.
That could have put Haith's future at the school in jeopardy, but the NCAA announced Wednesday that it was suspending its investigation because of improper conduct by members of its enforcement program.
"As I told our team, adversity, you've got to be able to handle whatever's going on off the court," Haith said. "When you get that opportunity, do what you do. ... I get an opportunity to coach young men, I'm going to do my very best."
Haith is hopeful on Saturday that he'll have Bowers back - his star forward is expected to dress, though it's unclear if he'll play - while Bell sounds even more likely to play after missing Tuesday's game with a sprained ankle.
Missouri has only had two games this season in which it's had its full set of players available.
Still, the Tigers are 44-9 under Haith and 27-1 at home. They're also 44-2 at Mizzou Arena over the last three seasons, including an overtime win over Vanderbilt on Dec. 8, 2010.
Bowers and Bell are shooting a combined 55.3 percent, and Missouri could certainly use a boost in that department. Brown is averaging a team-best 16.6 points in conference play but shooting 37.9 percent. Missouri was 5 of 27 from beyond the arc Tuesday and shot 33.3 percent overall, the third time in four games it's been held under 37.0.
The Commodores (8-9, 2-3) head into this game having earned back-to-back wins for the second time this season. They earned their first conference victory at South Carolina on Saturday and followed with a 73-61 home win over Auburn on Wednesday.
"Our play is getting better as a team. It's a testament to their hard work and believing in each other through adversity," said coach Kevin Stallings, whose team has no seniors and two juniors.
Leading scorer Kedren Johnson (15.1 ppg), one of two players averaging in double figures, had a team-best 15 points Wednesday but needs to figure out a way to play better on the road if the Commodores are going to upset Missouri. He's 0 for 9 from the field and has totaled six points in two conference games away from Nashville.
Vanderbilt leads the series 3-2 but has lost in each of its two trips to Columbia - both in overtime.
The Associated Press News Service
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