The Missouri Tigers met their match.
For nine consecutive games to begin the 2022 season, Mizzou pretty handily forced its will upon every opponent in its path en route to the program’s best start since the 2013-14 season.
On Saturday, however, the school from the west and last year’s national champion, the kansas jayhawks, flipped the script of the Tigers in a 95-67 victory in the Border Showdown.
“I’m not happy about the outcome,” Mizzou men’s basketball head coach Dennis Gates said. “Our players aren’t happy. Our fans aren’t happy.”
A team known for its high-scoring, up-tempo offense and turnover-happy defense, Mizzou, failed to display any of those signs throughout the 28-point defeat. Instead, the Tigers looked lost, as if their identity had been stolen right away from them...which did happen.
Fresh out of the halftime break, trailing 50-33 and in much need of a positive, Nick Honor’s first pass was intercepted and taken the other way for a fast break opportunity, and DeAndre Gholston fouled Kevin McCullar on the ensuing attempt. McCullar knocked down both shots and hopped back on defense.
Then, almost as quickly as the first drive, kansas freshman guard Gradey Dick caught another uncharacteristically off-target pass, dishing it to Dajuan Harris for an easy fast break layup. Within those 37 seconds to begin the second half, the jayhawks scored nearly the same number of points off turnovers as the Tigers in the entire first half (6) and increased their lead to 21 points.
About two minutes later, disaster struck once again for Mizzou.
Kobe Brown grabbed a defensive rebound and launched a baseball-style pass for Hodge, who lost the ball for yet another turnover. Kansas made the Tigers pay for that one too, as KJ Adams, Jr. knocked down a layup on the ensuing jayhawks possession.
That sequence epitomized the afternoon for Mizzou, who could not overcome a scorching start from the jayhawks’ offense and failed to establish any sort of consistency, rhythm or efficiency. Essentially, the Tigers struggled to capitalize on the characteristics that made them such a lethal threat early on, albeit against — WE KNOW — lesser-quality competition.
The Turnover Battle
Entering the Border Showdown with the nation’s top turnover margin, the Tigers and their suffocating defense hoped to cause disruption among the lethal kansas backcourt. Instead, the jayhawks utilized effective passing and efficient shooting to establish a clear advantage.
Kansas committed eight turnovers in the first half, but Mizzou only scored six points off of those miscues. Conversely, the Tigers turned the ball over nine times, resulting in 12 points for the visitors.
As if that could not get any worse, it did.
Mizzou became turnover-prone in the second half, totaling 12 giveaways, including those three aforementioned turnovers to begin the second half. From a pair of offensive fouls on Sean East II to a trio of second half turnovers from DeAndre Gholston, the damage extended throughout the roster.
“We didn’t execute how we needed to execute,” Gates said.
A total of six different Tigers committed two or more turnovers, including 10 combined turnovers between Tre Gomillion and Gholston. As a whole, Mizzou turned the ball over 21 times, showcasing uncharacteristic carelessness with the basketball and looking overwhelmed with the pressure from the kansas defense.
The jayhawks made the Tigers pay for those mistakes, too, notching 28 points off turnovers to just 15 for the hometown team. Overall, the 28-point defeat made for a painful learning opportunity for a team that had not been tested with an opponent of kansas’ caliber yet this season.
“We have to regroup,” Gates said. “We have to figure it out and get to the other side of it.”
Fastbreak Points and Efficiency
Mizzou entered the Border Showdown averaging 22.2 fast break points per game, good for 23.9% of its total points per game and ranking No. 1 in the nation.
Against kansas, however, those opportunities and points came by the few.
The Tigers only forced 14 turnovers, limiting their ability to break out in transition and create those easier opportunities.
Adding to the challenge, the jayhawks crafted an effective transition defense, always seeming to have one or two players toward their end of the hoop to force contested layups and jumpers. Those defenders helped to hold the Tigers to a 40.4% mark from the field.
Another struggle that presented itself for Mizzou was shooting from beyond the arc, which has become more of a positive for the Tigers throughout the young season.
After drilling 40.7% of its three-point attempts in last weekend’s victory over Southeast Missouri State, the Tigers fell off drastically against kansas.
Mizzou connected on just one of its first nine attempts from beyond the arc en route to shooting just 30% (6-20) throughout the entirety of the Border War rivalry game. D’Moi Hodge offered the only hope from that distance, knocking down four of nine attempts, to lead the charge offensively.
“I think, ultimately, we have to remain consistent in what we do, so that we can yield the results we want” Gates said.
After shooting well below its season average of 51.6%, the Tigers will have work to do before they face similar level competition in the coming weeks, into a Braggin’ Rights matchup against Illinois on Dec. 22 and a home date with Kentucky on Dec. 28 to open SEC play.
Throughout the season, Mizzou has benefited from the sheer depth that it offers each time the Tigers step out onto the court.
Whether it’s the starting five, sixth man Sean East II or Isiaih Mosley (who was noticeably absent from yet another game), it always appears that a new player can lead the team in scoring. This time out, however, that proved to not be the case.
Sean East II had just two points in 26 minutes off the bench, Aidan Shaw added two points in 22 minutes and Tre Gomillion led bench scorers with six points in 16 minutes of game action. As a whole, the Tigers’ bench unit shot 26.7% from the field and did not make a single three-point shot attempt.
The jayhawks, who played four players for at least 32 minutes, nearly matchup the Mizzou bench effort with nine bench points. Their unit shot 33.3% from the field, which contributed to kansas dropping off slightly after shooting an emphatic 64.5% from the field in the first half and 60% from long range.
For the first time all season, Mizzou looked inconsistent.
“Like (I’ve) said in other interviews, consistency will be your biggest goal throughout the season,” Gates said. “The team that gets the most consistent usually comes out on top.”
Those uncharacteristic miscues and mistakes must not become habit for the Tigers as they prepare to play higher competition throughout the remainder of the season and in SEC play.
Next weekend, the Tigers will get an opportunity to rebound against a pretty good UCF squad (6-2) who knocked off a ranked Oklahoma State team in mid-November, and narrowly lost to Miami (10-1) a few weeks ago. Then comes the gauntlet of ranked opponents to close out the calendar year.