The Missouri Tigers vaulted into the top-10 of the AP poll for the first time since 2012 on Monday, but on Wednesday in Oxford, they did not look the part. Lackluster defense and poor FT shooting was the tale of the tape for the Tigers as they fell 80-59.
The Tigers came out of the gate strong shooting the ball and even led 12-5 early, but once Ole Miss settled into the game, the Tigers had no answer defensively. By half, the Rebels had their own 5-point lead and were shooting over 61% from the field.
Mizzou also shot the ball well for most of the game. They finished shooting 49% from the field and 42% from 3, but their defense seemed to be leaving a Rebel open on every play to negate their best efforts. After the game, Cuonzo Martin said, “I thought they had too much comfort and rhythm when they were shooting.” When the final buzzer sounded, the Rebels were so comfortable they finished with three players with over 15 points, including 21 from Jarkel Joiner and 15 from Devontae Shuler.
Poor defense wasn’t the only problem the Tigers had, however. Mizzou was unable to display their trademark transition offense, make free throws, or attack the rim like they usually do. The culmination of those three factors led to a 20-6 Rebel run to start the second half that all but wrapped up the game with plenty of time left on the clock.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Tigers finished with 0 (yes, zero) fastbreak points and Cuonzo Martin acknowledged these struggles postgame. “It’s hard to run the way you usually run when the other team is making 56% of their baskets,” he said. “We didn’t defend like we usually do.”
On top of poor transition offense, the Tigers also shot just 5-15 from the FT line and took just 12 layups the whole game. Dru Smith didn’t know what the exact reason the Tigers struggled so much inside, but acknowledged that they have to be better. “It just felt like something was a little off,” he said. “ We have to make sure we are playing aggressive. Obviously, they get up in you defensively, but it wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen before.”
After watching their performance it seemed like the Tigers were resting on their laurels after Saturday’s victory over No. 10 Alabama, and Dru Smith admitted it after the game. “No matter what game we are coming off of,” he said. “We have to understand as a team we have to come out and bring no matter what number is next to our name.”