PowerMizzou - Post-Game Report: Disastrous start dooms Mizzou at Arkansas
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Post-Game Report: Disastrous start dooms Mizzou at Arkansas

Missouri and Arkansas entered Wednesday night's matchup on opposite ends of the spectrum from a momentum standpoint. The Razorbacks had lost three straight games to open SEC play and five of their past six, while the Tigers were coming off a win over No. 15 Alabama.

The two teams continued to look like opposites after tipoff, but the script flipped. Arkansas came out on fire, making seven of its first eight field goal attempts and scoring 18 points before the first media timeout. Missouri, on the other hand, couldn't buy a basket. The Tigers shot just 3-25 while turning the ball over 11 times in the first 20 minutes.

The result was the worst first half of the season for a Tiger team that has had its share of slow starts, and eventually the most lopsided loss for a squad that has made a habit of getting blown out.

Arkansas led by 15 points less than five minutes into the game, led by 34 at halftime and ultimately prevailed 87-43, marking the most lopsided loss during Cuonzo Martin's tenure at Missouri.

"To their credit, they had us on our heels from the start of the game," Martin, "and we could never recover.”

The defeat dropped Missouri (7-8, 1-2) below .500 in league play and on the season. It marks the fifth time in the team's past eight games that it has lost by more than 20 points.

Here are five things we learned from the loss.

Cuonzo Martin's Missouri team mustered just three field goals in the first half of its blowout loss at Arkansas.
Cuonzo Martin's Missouri team mustered just three field goals in the first half of its blowout loss at Arkansas. (D. Medley/USA Today)

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1. When things go bad for this Tiger team, they tend to go real bad. Wednesday's loss marked the fourth time this season the Tigers have trailed by more than 20 points at the end of the first 20 minutes and the sixth time they've trailed by at least 15 before halftime.

Arkansas needed less than nine minutes to build its lead to 20-plus points. It led by more than 30 for the final 31:42.

Both Martin and senior Javon Pickett attributed the latest slow start to a lack of aggression on the Tigers' part. Martin said Arkansas "set a physical tone" that his team failed to match.

"We just gotta go out there and get our game plan, play aggressive," said Pickett. "They out-toughed us the whole night."

That has familiar refrain after Missouri's blowout losses this season: the Tigers struggling to match an opponent's intensity. In this particular instance, Pickett said the fact that Missouri was coming off its biggest win of the season likely played a part.

"We came in, let that victory get to us," he said. "We just gotta continue to go into every game how we went into the last one."

2. Arkansas made sure Kobe Brown wouldn't beat them, and no one else could. Brown faced two or more defenders virtually every time he touched the ball. He finished the game with six points on 3-11 shooting, three turnovers and no assists. Martin said Brown tried to force things early, then got out of rhythm and failed to take advantage of some open looks later.

"I just told him, be aggressive, but allow it to come to you," Martin said. "Because I thought a couple times he had a shot and didn’t shoot it. I thought he had an opportunity to drive left, he didn’t take advantage of that left hand drive. Like late in the half, I thought he could have drove left and made a play. He came back right and I think he lost the ball.”

More problematic than Brown's performance was the fact that Missouri couldn't make Arkansas pay for devoting so much defensive attention to him. Boogie Coleman scored 11 points, but he had to take 12 shots to do so. He made just one of five three-point attempts and turned the ball over twice. Martin was particularly hard on Coleman after the game, saying he let Arkansas guard JD Notae disrupt the offense by slowing him down with pressure and making him get rid of the ball around the mid-court stripe.

"Boogie, as the point guard, in that situation — not to say he’s the reason why the score is what it was — but in that situation, you gotta be aggressive, get him off you and make a play," Martin said. "You can’t allow the guy to get you from side to side to side to side and allow you to pick the ball up around the half court line. You can’t run good offense that way.”

Elsewhere in the starting lineup, DaJuan Gordon played just 18 minutes due to foul trouble. Trevon Brazile made a corner three for Missouri's first basket of the game and never scored again. And the entire Tiger bench combined for just two points in 68 combined minutes. The six reserves who saw the floor combined to miss all nine of their field goal attempts. Put it all together and Missouri's 43 points marked the fewest it has scored in Martin's five seasons.

"In the post, guys were all around (Brown), so that means guys have to make shots at the perimeter," Martin said. "You have to make plays on the perimeter."

3. The most glaring offensive issue might have been the turnover margin. Missouri gave the ball away a whopping 23 times, its highest total of the season. Arkansas, meanwhile, had just eight turnovers.

Missouri's 8:23 assist-to-turnover against Arkansas ratio stood in stark contrast to Saturday, when the Tigers logged 19 assists and gave the ball away just 10 times. Martin once again said the issues started with Arkansas getting Missouri out of sync with its extended pressure. When the team couldn't find a flow, the spacing suffered and the offense devolved into players trying to win one-on-one matchups.

"It kind of became one-on-one, settling for shots, not as aggressive, not attacking the rim, and I thought sometimes we tried to drive when there was a shot that presented itself," said Martin. "I thought we had two or three guys hovering around when one guys was posting up, and not having that good spacing that we needed.”

Missouri's giveaways led to 26 Arkansas points. Those not only represented easy scoring opportunities for the Razorbacks, but chances to get the home crowd into the game.

"That’s momentum for them," said Pickett. "We’re on the road, so their crowd get into it. So that just makes them feel more comfortable, feel better about themselves. That’s just an area we have to continue to work on. We can’t make those mistakes, especially on the road.”

4. Missouri's defense was just as bad as the offense. Arkansas scored 87 points and likely could have put up more, but the Razorbacks didn't score in the final two minutes after emptying the bench.

In the first half, Arkansas shot 51.5 percent from the field and scored an astounding 1.40 points per possession. The Razorbacks' 49 points before halftime tied the most the Tigers have allowed in a first half this season. Illustrative of just how easy Arkansas found it to score was the fact that it scored 44 points in the paint, more than Missouri mustered for the game.

5. Missouri may not be as good as it looked against Alabama or as bad as it looked at Arkansas, but the season so far suggests Wednesday's blowout loss is closer to the reality.

The Tigers have now lost six games by more than 20 points on the season. The last time the program got blown out more times in one year: 1965-66. It's the fourth time in the past six games the team has fallen by at least 25. Missouri has now lost all of its true road games by more than 20 and by an average of 32.25.

In short, while Wednesday night was the worst loss of the season, it was far from a fluke. And even the issues that caused it are nothing new. The Missouri defense has allowed more than 80 points in five of its past six contests. The Tigers went to Fayetteville ranked No. 352 out of 358 Division I teams In three-point shooting. They further lowered that percentage by making just two of 16 attempts from behind the arc.

Star of the Game: Arkansas wing Trey Wade made just his third start of the season due to Eric Musselman mixing up his lineup. He delivered by scoring 17 points on just 10 field goal attempts. He also added five rebounds, three blocks and two steals.

Room for Improvement: Everything. Pick a stat (aside from free throw percentage), and Arkansas fared better in that category. The most glaring issue was probably the turnovers. Wednesday marked the first game this season in which Missouri reached 20 giveaways.

What it means: Any hope that Missouri had turned a corner with its upset over No. 15 Alabama can be put to bed. This marked the Tigers' worst defeat since a 49-point loss at Kentucky on Jan. 13, 2015.

Next up: Missouri will return home to host Texas A&M on Saturday. The Aggies have started league play 3-0. Tipoff is set for 2:30 p.m.

Quotable: “We just need to get better. We need to get better, need to handle pressure. I think that’s it, be able to handle pressure and continue to get better on both sides of the basketball.” -- Cuonzo Martin


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