Seven years ago, UMKC pulled into and left with an upset of Missouri — a loss that soured segments of fanbase on the direction of the program.
On Tuesday night, the result was eerily similar, this time leaving with a 80-66 victory on a night where a stagnant offense put the Tigers in an early hole and woeful defense after halftime helped the Summit League visitors stretch their lead to 22 points with 11 minutes to go.
UMKC guard Evan Gilyard II piled up 28 points, an outburst powered by a 6 of 8 shooting performance from behind the arc. Guard Marvin Nesbitt Jr. chipped in 20 points, five rebounds and four assists.
The Roos didn’t wait long to put the Tigers in a hole. Anderson Kopp, who had 12 points, canned two early 3-pointers to push UMKC to a four-point lead before the first media timeout. Early on, Mizzou’s defense created what turned out to be few transition chances, but the Tigers’ half-court was sluggish.
Throughout the night, UMKC continued to get the majority of loose balls and rebounds, as Mizzou really struggled to get on the offensive glass, finishing with just six rebounds. The best offense for the Tigers was to get out and run in the open floor early on.
DaJuan Gordon showed little sign of rust in his first action of the season, and coach Cuonzo Martin essentially revealed that Gordon will be a key part of this roster with how much he played in these first couple of minutes. He led Mizzou with seven points at halftime but was scoreless after the break.
Meanwhile, the Roos continued to be hot from outside the arc as they pushed their led to 24-14 with just over eight minutes left in the first half. Nesbitt Jr. led the way early with 10 points, but multiple UMKC players had proved to be deadly from behind the arc. None more than Gilyard, who only shot 31.6 percent from 3-point range last season at New Mexico State.
Defensively, UMKC forced Mizzou to rely on the likes of Gordon, Kobe Brown and Javon Pickett to run the offense in the half court. Outside of a few bull-rushes from Brown, the result was still an offense mostly stuck in place.
UMKC also made the kinds of hustle plays needed to expand its advantage, coming up with loose balls, tracking down, offensive rebounds, and taking timely charges to short-circuit an already stalled out MU offense.
Trailing 32-23 after the break, Mizzou found a slight groove in the opening minutes of the second half. The Tigers were more active cutting, and for the first four minutes, the defensive intensity perked up to give Martin’s team a chance to cut into the lead. But ultimately, stops were too hard to come by.
The Roos made the Tigers pay for any and all mistakes. A defensive miscommunication led to an open three made things 38-26 in favor of UMKC. Then Gilyard ripped off five points in a row to take the lead to 19 points, forcing Martin call a timeout with 12:49 to go. It din’t stop Gilyard, though. The transfer hit another 3, making it a 56-34 lead for the Roos.
The Tigers mounted an 8-0 run thanks to some free throw rebounding and some aggressive play from Kobe Brown, who paced MU with 20 points. Gilyard again had other ideas. Coming out of a UMKC timeout with the crowd as raucous as they had been all game, he hit a cold-blooded three to silence them. UMKC extended their lead back out to 19 at the under eight timeout.
Nothing much changed from there. Mizzou’s offense still looked sloppy. Ronnie DeGray III finished with 14 points, but no other Tiger cracked double figures. Meanwhile, Jarron Coleman, who serves as the Tigers’ main ball-handler, went down with an ankle injury midway through the second half. Freshman Anton Brookshire came on to help shore it up but made the kinds of mistakes you expect from a newcomer seeing his first bit of heavy playing time.
The Tigers made things respectable late, but Evan Gilyard closed out the game with four clutch points to secure an 80-66 win for the Roos.
We have to give a ton of credit to this Kansas City team. They came in outmatched and undersized, but they were battle-tested and confident. They had taken on Minnesota and Iowa on the road and were not fazed by Mizzou Arena, and they came in looking to win, not just to not get blown out. They beat Mizzou to nearly every loose ball, shot the lights out, and overall looked like they wanted it more.
Still, let’s all pause. This is early in the college basketball season. These games are all about figuring out rotations and who a coach really has on his team. A defeat like this will surely sting for a while, and it will definitely sit heavily on the mind of coach Cuonzo Martin. First order of business: finding an offensive identity that this team can get behind.
The Tigers host Northern Illinois at 7 p.m. Thursday.