First few minutes again sink Tigers against Oklahoma
Missouri probably could have saved some energy and just put a replay of last night’s loss to Butler on the video board at the Sprint Center.
On Tuesday night, the Tigers fell behind Oklahoma 15-3 as the Sooners hit their first eight shots. The lead ballooned to 18 before Missouri spent the next 17 minutes chipping away to close within 49-48. But one point from the top of the hill, the comeback Tigers slipped and fell. A 14-4 Oklahoma run pushed the lead back to double digits and the Sooners knocked off Mizzou 77-66.
“it was a tough sequence,” Mark Smith said. “We just had some key turnovers and they made some big shots and you know, kind of swung the momentum back their way.”
It was the latest sequel in a disturbing season-long loop for Mizzou. Against Xavier, Butler and Oklahoma, Missouri has been blown off the floor to the tune of a double-digit deficit in the first ten minutes. The Tigers forced overtime before losing to the Musketeers, never got closer than eight against the Bulldogs and then saw the comeback end a little short against the Sooners. The end result is three losses against the only three top 100 teams they have played so far.
“You have to play from start to finish,” Cuonzo Martin said. “We dig ourselves holes defensively and all of a sudden it’s ‘let’s play some defense.’ It’s just too hard against teams that can score the ball.”
“We just got to go out there and fight harder in the beginning,” Torrence Watson said. “Coach really just talked about, we got to figure out what's causing us to not execute in those first four to seven minutes I think we gotta just go back to Columbia, get back working on Friday and just this really put in the work, put in effort so that we can change things.”
The two-day Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City offered the Tigers a couple of chances at resume building wins for a team that has openly talked about returning to the NCAA Tournament after a one-year absence. Instead, the Tigers go an early season dose of reality about how far they have to go.
“Coach said, you know, he warned against Morehead State, Northern Kentucky we kind of really started slow also,” Mark Smith said. “I think it's paining everybody in the right way you know. Come back and get better. We have practice on Friday, you know I think everyone wants to come back and lock down.”
After unproductive first halves, Jeremiah Tilmon and Mark Smith combined to score 27 of Missouri’s 37 points in the second 20 minutes and lead the comeback. It reinforced how important the pair is. When they are on, Missouri can look really good. When they aren’t…
“You’re a different team scoring the ball when Jeremiah’s on the floor,” Martin said. “He was a little more demanding of the ball and it’s probably the best I’ve seen him all season even in the huddles.”
The other bright spot—and the lone reason Missouri had any shot whatsoever at halftime—was Watson. The sophomore broke out of a season-long shooting slump with three first half three-pointers and finished with a season-high 11 points.
“This guy here (Mark Smith) was just telling me just keep shooting it, it’s gonna fall,” Watson said. “It definitely was great to see the shots fall. My teammates did a great job of getting me open and setting screens.”
But none of it was enough for the Tigers, who fell to 4-3 on the season. They are off for a week before hosting Charleston Southern next Tuesday night at Mizzou Aren77