COLUMBIA (KMOX) — Missouri had a chance to win its fourth consecutive game for the first time since December on Saturday afternoon. Prior to their contest against the Tennessee Volunteers, Mizzou Coach Frank Haith emphasized the importance of playing their best level of basketball.
Despite an early lead, the Tigers had a scoring drought in the first half that allowed the Vols to pull even with them before halftime. Mizzou and Tennessee were knotted at 29 points a piece after the first 20 minutes of play.
Coach Haith’s team rallied in the second half, leading by as many as 8 points. But it was St. Louis area native, Coach Cuonzo Martin, whose Vols were victorious. Tennessee beat Missouri by a final score of 64-62. The outcome of the game means the Tigers completed their regular season play with a record of 22-9 (11-7 in the SEC). Meanwhile, the streaking Vols helped their NCAA Tournament resume by improving their record to 19-11 (11-7 in the SEC).
Missouri stumbled late in the game once again, when point guard Phil Pressey was quick to pull the trigger on a chance to tie the game in the final 15 seconds. Coach Haith’s frustration with Pressey was evident in his reaction. While Mizzou has been competitive in many of their away games this season, the Tigers continue to struggle in the final moments of close match-ups.
Mizzou’s best performer was Laurence Bowers, who remained hot despite his team’s loss. Bowers put together a strong performance, scoring 20 points and shooting 66% on field goals.
But the impact of that performance was limited. Missouri’s big men, Alex Oriakhi and Laurence Bowers, both found themselves in foul trouble, limiting their playing time significantly. Their absence was all the more obvious in the box score, as Mizzou was out-rebounded by Tennessee 45-32. Until their tilt with the Vols, the Tigers had been dominant in rebounding. Inferiority on the boards was practically a foreign concept to this Missouri team before Saturday.
Coach Haith’s team extended what has been a season-long struggle in road games on Saturday afternoon.
The loss also means that Mizzou will be playing on Thursday (rather than Friday) in the SEC Tournament. Missouri will have to bounce back quickly and begin preparation for the upcoming competition.
– A. Kastman
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