The biggest contributing factor to Missouri’s disappointing 75-67 loss to Ole Miss in Oxford Wednesday night can be found in a breakdown of Missouri’s possessions near the end of the game.
Not once, not twice, but three times did Missouri turn the ball over in the final two minutes. Xavier Pinson and Dru Smith, the two most reliable ball handlers on the team, were guilty of the giveaways.
Missouri turned the ball over 13 times, just three more than Ole Miss, but those extra three came at the worst possible time.
Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis certainly wouldn’t go saying his team played a clean game by any stretch of the imagination, but his team made the plays down the stretch it needed to. Breein Tyree heated up in the second half to finish with 19 points, embracing the go-to-guy role that he has flourished in during his senior season.
With the loss, Missouri drops to 14-16 (6-11). Ole Miss improves .500 at 15-15 (6-11).
After making drastic improvements during the middle of conference play, Missouri has dropped its past two games in relatively disheartening fashion, making some of the same mistakes down the stretch that plagued it throughout much of the season.
Since the last couple results have been dishearteningly negative, lets rehash a few positives from Wednesday. Torrence Watson made a few nice plays to keep Missouri in it at halftime. Missouri went on a 16-2 run to completely erase what had been a huge Ole Miss lead. What originally was a 49-35 lead turned into a 53-53 game with 12:52 left.
In terms of positives, that is about it.
Missouri once again had a miserable shooting performance, shooting just 22-60 from the field and 4-17 from three. That is not a recipe for winning a road game in conference play, or really any game at all.
When the timely stops came on defense down the stretch, they were not followed by quality offensive possessions. Missouri cut the Rebels lead to 67-65, and that was with 4:56 left.
Missouri proceeded to outnumber its points scored to close the game (two) with turnovers (three). Devontae Shuler and Breein Tyree handled the rest for Ole Miss. It felt eerily similar to Missouri’s loss to Mississippi State, and to so many past losses in which the team was within striking distance around the time of the final media timeout only to be beaten convincingly in the final four minutes.
After consecutive losses to the Mississippi schools in the past five days, the Tigers are now starting a Wednesday night SEC Tournament tipoff dead in the face. That would give Missouri the unfortunate distinction of having played on opening night for the fourth time in its last five conference tournaments.