Following the heartbreaking loss to Auburn, Mizzou faced another challenge in their next outing.
The SEC-Big 12 Challenge took place today, and the Tigers ventured to Ames to take on their neighbors to the North. Iowa State started out hot this season, going 12-0 in non-conference play, but have hit a rough patch in conference play.
Still, the Cyclones are an NCAA Tournament-caliber team, and a road win over them would likely qualify as Mizzou’s best of the season.
Per usual, Hilton Coliseum was rocking, as the Cyclone faithful continued to make it one of the premier venues in the nation.
DaJuan Gordon got out to a fast start with five early points off of an arching mid-range shot and a three. The Tigers showed that they were able to hang with Iowa State’s pace early, which was a key for the normally slower-paced visitors.
This is mentioned because the pace became too much for Missouri in the proceeding minutes. Three turnovers and multiple highlight-reel plays from Iowa State allowed them to go on a 5-0 run and take the lead into the under twelve timeout.
A Trevon Brazile dunk and a Boogie Coleman three weathered the storm, and then Missouri made a run of their own. Ronnie DeGray III had five quick points, and Boogie Coleman continued a hot shooting start to give the Tigers a 25-20 lead coming down the stretch of the first half.
Then, the wheels fell off. Seemingly every other possession for Missouri resulted in a turnover, and the duo of Tyrese Hunter (8 first half points) and Isaiah Brockington (10 points) capitalized.
A technical foul on Cuonzo Martin capped off a brutal end to the half for the Tigers, as the Cyclones scored the final eight points before the break.
“When I was watching on the monitor, I thought Ronnie jumped straight up,” Cuonzo Martin said. ”I don’t use cuss words or anything like that, I just said that isn’t a foul.”
The collapse at the end aside, turnovers were the major issue of the first half. The Tigers had 13 of them, and it allowed Iowa State to hang in the game.
However, outside of that, the trio of Gordon (9), Coleman (9), and DeGray (8) led the way through an efficient shooting half, and Mizzou had weathered the raucous environment well.
Perhaps the most revealing stat of the half was this: Mizzou had 29 points on 55% shooting. They were not getting enough opportunities to shoot the ball.
Javon Pickett leaving with a head injury did not help matters either.
“I think losing Javon in the first half, we had to go to our bench and let them play extended minutes,” Martin said. “He was hit between the head and the eye, and he was saying he struggled to see.”
Missouri made an early push in the second half, but Brockington and Hunter continued to light up the Tiger defense. Their ability to alternate getting buckets each possession allowed them to stretch the ISU lead out to ten with thirteen minutes left.
As time wore on, more Cyclones got involved. They went on a 15-0 run thanks to some great 3-point shooting from Aljaz Kunc (finished with 11 points), and Mizzou went ice cold from the field. If any arena is known for producing well-timed runs for the home team, it is Hilton Coliseum.
In roughly seven minutes of action between the sixteen and nine minute marks, Mizzou scored one point. That allowed Iowa State to extend their lead to sixteen, and they cruised to a victory after that.
That technical foul amidst the turnover-filled end of the first half looms large as a turning point of this game. The Tigers had managed to find success in a hostile environment up to that point, but were outmatched following it.
On top of that, it will always be very difficult to win a basketball game when turning the ball over 18 times. At this level, against this type of competition, away from your home arena, you can not afford the amount of mistakes Missouri made today.
Think about it this way. Missouri shot 42.9% from the field. Iowa State shot 45.3%. Missouri had 27 rebounds. Iowa State had 31. Missouri shot 35.7% from three, while Iowa State shot 33.3%. The Tigers were right with ISU in nearly ever other major statistical category. Turnovers make a massive difference.
“We didn’t play tough enough,” Gordon said. “They brought the grit and we didn’t.”
Another sign that Mizzou was going to have a rough night offensively was Kobe Brown’s continued struggles. He had three points on 1/8 shooting, as one of the best defenses in the nation really limited the Tigers’ primary scorer.
“I imagine that was a focal point, to defend Kobe,” Martin explained. “But they were switching point guards onto Kobe, he just has to be better because he’s a better talent than what he showed.”
Missouri will host Florida (12-8, 3-5) Tuesday, February 2nd, at 8pm at Mizzou Arena. The Gators have had an up and down season but still have tournament aspirations, meaning the Tigers can play spoiler.