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Poor Second Half Dooms Missouri against A&M

It was a tale of two halves for Missouri. A stellar start was not enough to avoid a disastrous finish, and A&M left Mizzou Arena with another victory.

NCAA Basketball: Texas A&M at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Oftentimes, it’s not about how you start, but rather, how you finish, and the Missouri Tigers (7-9) learned that the hard way on Saturday when they hosted Texas A&M (15-2) in Columbia.

“You’ve just got to do the things that you need to do to be successful from start to finish in games, and it’s just the consistency, we have to get better at that,” Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin said after the game.

For the Tigers, they couldn’t have asked for a better start. They shot it relatively well, including a couple of clutch DaJuan Gordon threes, and were playing some stellar defense. A&M looked stumped.

The Aggies offense was so flustered, they started 0-13 and didn’t make their first bucket until 7:53 had passed on the clock. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they went scoreless for four of the minutes A&M was struggling, and once the Aggies got on the board, it was game on.

For a good portion of the game, the Tigers were able to withstand A&M’s efforts to crawl back in the game. No one person carried the load for the Tigers, but 7 players scored more than 7 points, and someone different seemed to answer the call every time the Tigers needed to put out an Aggies run.

Just before the under-12 timeout in the second half, it looked like A&M was finally going to crack through Missouri’s armor. They were already in the bonus, and trailing by just four after trailing by as much as 13 earlier game. However, a 6-0 run to push the Missouri lead back double digits was just what the Tigers needed.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, from then on A&M seemed to take control of the game. The Aggies immediately answered the Tigers’ run with a 7-0 run of their own, Kobe Brown picked up his 4th foul with 8:07 left, and A&M finally took their first lead with 4:23 left in the game.

However, the Tigers weren’t helping themselves either. Seven of the Tigers’ 17 turnovers on the day came after the under-12 timeout, and another four minute scoring drought didn’t help either.

“As hard as it is to win games, we have to find ways not to beat ourselves,” Cuonzo Martin said after the game, and his players echoed his sentiments.

“We had the game in our hands. We took our foot off the gas once we got that lead,” Guard Boogie Coleman added. “We stopped doing our fundamentals.”

For a couple minutes the game was back and forth, but A&M took its first two possession lead at 65-61 with 32 seconds left.

“I think the last seven minutes, they just got whatever they want,” Javon Pickett said of A&M’s offensive success down the stretch.

Desperately needing a bucket, the Tigers got three chances, but neither Amari Davis, Kobe Brown, or DaJuan Gordon could finish their chances at the rim, and A&M went to the line.

Improbably, Marcus Williams missed both free throws and the Tigers had life.

A Boogie Coleman three cut it the Aggies lead to just 1 with 4.7 seconds left, but A&M made both of their free throws, and the Tigers were unable to get a good look before the buzzer as Coleman’s half court heave deflected off the rim.

After the devastating defeat, Pickett perfectly summarized what was a winnable game for Missouri. “What we were doing in the first half, it was like everything just went out the window,” he said.

“We’ve got to continue to play for forty minutes, we’ve got to have grit, we have got to win it, we have got to finish off the game. And you know we didn’t do that.”