Missing free throws, missing shots at the rim, and getting out-rebounded on the offensive glass are all backbreaking in road contests. Mizzou (18-9, 8-6 SEC) allowed all three to happen on Saturday, but still found itself up three points with 1:17 to go.
A few point-blank misses and the heroics of Tremont Waters, however, put Mizzou away.
Missouri made just 10 of 36 attempts inside the arc, missed 10 free throws, and surrendered nine offensive rebounds as it fell 64-63 to LSU on the road. Waters scored 21 points and hit two shots down the stretch that decided the game.
Jordan Barnett dropped 18 points and hit six of eight threes in just 24 minutes of play. “I thought Barnett shot the ball really well,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said. “He had great lift on his shot, great confidence, he always shoots the ball with confidence.”
For the second straight game, early struggles on the offensive glass also plagued Missouri. Despite holding LSU to just 12 for 30 shooting in the first half, Mizzou was out-rebounded 18-16. More importantly, LSU snagged three more offensive rebounds and scored six second-chance points.
Missouri shot well in the first half, but its issues with ball security surfaced once again. LSU (15-11, 6-8) coach Will Wade ramped up the pressure, and his players forced eight turnovers. Out of all the visiting Tigers, none struggled more with LSU’s length and style than Jeremiah Tilmon.
Tilmon turned the ball over twice in the first half and secured just one rebound. The freshman forward also missed all six of his shot attempts and couldn’t find a rhythm. After the game, Martin revealed that Tilmon wasn’t feeling well.
Meanwhile, LSU senior forward Aaron Epps was having himself a day. Epps posted a line of 10 points, six rebounds and a block in the opening period alone, and certainly got the better of Tilmon.
In the backcourt, LSU freshman Tremont Waters was going toe-to-toe with Kassius Robertson. Waters scored 11 points and dished out two assists while Robertson fought off a rough start and dropped 10 of his own.
Martin said that he thought Missouri didn’t play as a team in the first half, pointing to communication on defense, uncharacteristic offense, and missed layups. “We just didn’t look like ourselves,” he said.
Kevin Puryear opened the second half with a three from the corner, and then Robertson found Barnett behind the arc for another to put Mizzou up three. LSU answered with back-to-back triples of its own to retake the lead.
Tilmon’s struggles continued as he missed both at the line, and Waters gave LSU its biggest lead of the night on a drive to the basket. Barnett quickly fired back with his third 3-pointer of the night to cut the deficit to two points, and a Puryear and-1 put Missouri back up.
It was a back-and-forth affair from there, with five lead changes and four ties taking place in the next six minutes. A Robertson layup put Mizzou up 58-56, and the visiting Tigers finally forced a stop.
Robertson was clearly in attack mode, and used a spin move to get to the rim once again before getting fouled. He missed, however, which made Missouri just five for 14 from the line for the game. Following another stop, Geist missed a point-blank layup.
“(We) missed at least, at least 15 points today on layups,” Robertson said. “Just layups.”
Robertson mishandled the ball on another drive to the basket and was forced to give it up to Porter who drew a foul. Porter missed the free throw, though, and LSU took the lead on a Waters layup.
Barnett drained a big-time 3-pointer that gave Missouri a one-point lead, and Robertson drew another foul on a layup attempt. This time he hit both, putting his team up 63-60.
Waters dribbled straight down the floor and hit a pull-up jumper to cut Mizzou’s lead to one, and Martin called a timeout to draw up a play. LSU switched to a 1-3-1 defense, catching Missouri off guard, and Porter missed a shot right in front of the rim.
“Those are the kinds of shots we would have wanted,” Barnett said. “It is what it is.”
Waters scored again on a layup off the glass to take the lead, and Robertson was called for charge on the next possession after plowing into an LSU defender. Missouri forced a turnover on the inbounds, but Robertson was met with contact and missed the layup.
“I’m pretty sure the defensive player didn’t know that they were in (the) bonus or something like that,” Robertson said. “I don’t know what he was trying to do, but he literally grabbed me with two hands. (He) bear hugged me, so I threw it up. I thought I heard a whistle, so I’m just looking at the ball. It was no whistle so, the refs were trippin’. They were scared to blow the whistle, so they weren’t trying to call that.”
Missouri remains tied for third place in the SEC after losses by Alabama and Florida, but missed a chance to separate itself. The Tigers will host Mississippi at 8 p.m. on Tuesday.