The play was executed to absolute perfection. With Missouri trailing 66-64 and 2.1 seconds remaining, Mark Smith launched an absolute beauty of a full-court pass to Parker Braun, who flipped it to Torrence Watson on the wing for a surprisingly good look. It looked good, and the crowd tried to will it in. It smashed off the rim and out.
9-9. 1-5 in the SEC. There is plenty of credit to go around for the fightback when all seemed lost. Missouri forced the Aggies into disarray with its end of game defense, and put itself into a position to win on multiple occasions. That being said, it is still an incredibly difficult loss to swallow to a team Missouri needed to beat and should have beaten.
The Tigers set the all time free throw record in Division I Tuesday night at 54; they lost it when Mitchell Smith’s potential game-tying free throw rimmed out with 28 seconds left.
Missouri was already learning how difficult it was to adjust to life without center Jeremiah Tilmon. It surely did not need to receive the news it got before the game.
Freshman forward Kobe Brown was considered “under the weather,” per a team spokesperson. Brown was available, but did not see the court all night, leaving Missouri without its two biggest presences inside.
What followed was a game that could only be described as a clunker, the type of matchup where you really felt the first team to 70 was going to win.
Texas A&M had this game seemingly on lockdown. They didn’t hit 70, but seemed to be firmly in control with two minutes remaining, leading 60-51. What happened was an absolute whirlwind that ended in absolute heartbreak.
Missouri went down 16-8 early, but was just effective enough from beyond the arc to stay in the game. It certainly didn’t hurt that Missouri did not miss a first half free throw.
After a back and forth half, the Tigers got the final shot, and Mark Smith dutifully buried the three to give Missouri a 32-27 lead going into the break.
Missouri made just four shots inside the arc during the first half, and it became obvious that with Brown and Tilmon in street clothes, the Tigers were going to have to hit shots from deep to keep pace.
In the second half, it didn’t happen. Missouri went just 4-21 from three, disastrous by any measure. “You see them fall in practice. We shoot tough shots in practice, big shots in practice, guys are sprinting off screens,” Cuonzo Martin said after the game. “I think, again, as we continue to drive the ball, the three point shot will fall. I thought we had great shots in the corners.”
The Aggies were just marginally better, shooting 3-8, but still managed to go 12-22 overall from the field.
When the Tigers have struggled from deep, they have often managed to still convert from inside the arc and get to the free throw line. On Tuesday, Missouri managed just 15 total field goals.
As time wound down, almost the exact same episode repeated itself. Missouri faltered down the stretch, but managed to get right back into the thick of things.
The game seemed headed for another ugly double-digit loss. Instead, it ended in pure heartbreak.