Jan. 8, 2013; Columbia, MO, USA; Missouri Tigers forward Laurence Bowers (21) grabs his knee in pain during the second half against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Mizzou Arena. Missouri won 84-68. Mandatory Credit: Dak Dillon-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri Must Play It Safe with Laurence Bowers, Sprained MCL


Laurence Bowers spent all of last season battling back from an ACL tear in his left knee.

He’ll spend at least the next week recovering from an injury, this one less severe, to his other knee.

The Missouri senior forward will miss a minimum of two games after spraining the MCL in his right knee towards the end of Tuesday’s win over Alabama. Bowers, who leads the Tigers in scoring (16.8 points per game) and is second on the team in rebounding (6.9), will sit out games against Mississippi on Saturday and Georgia next Wednesday before being re-evaluated at the end of next week.

Jan. 8, 2013; Columbia, MO, USA; Missouri Tigers forward Laurence Bowers (21) looks to pass the ball during the second half against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Mizzou Arena. Missouri won 84-68. Mandatory Credit: Dak Dillon-USA TODAY Sports

The timing of the injury puts Missouri’s top interior player in jeopardy for the team’s biggest game of the season, a showdown next Saturday in Gainesville with No. 11 Florida. If Bowers can’t go, that matchup could be without the two best power forwards in the SEC. Versatile stretch-4 Erik Murphy missed the Gators’ conference opener due to fractured ribs and is expected to remain out of action for at least another week.

Bowers is an indispensable piece to Missouri’s attack, forming one part of a two-headed monster inside along with Connecticut transfer Alex Oriakhi. Without Bowers’ slippery maneuvering down low, the Tigers, which own the sixth best offensive rebounding rate (42.5-percent) in the nation, stand to lose a significant number of second chance scoring opportunities. That’s also one less option to whom Phil Pressey can sneak off a pass while knifing through the lane, one fewer big body to clean up the glass on an ill-advised Pressey shot (he’s usually good for one, two or five of these per game).

Still, Bowers’ long-term value trumps the short-term urgency to rush him back. This is no time for Frank Haith to put on his Mike Shanahan hat. If erring on the side of caution means Bowers must miss next week’s game in Gainesville, it’s a route the Tigers must take.

Missouri ought to know first-hand that knees are fragile and injuries to them should be treated with the utmost vigilance. When dealing with a knee ligament strains and sprains on a 6-foot-8, 225-pound frame, the slow, methodical approach to recovery is the only suitable alternative.

Even for a team that loves to fly at breakneck speed.

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