In their three previous one-possession games at home this year, Missouri left Norm Stewart Court with a loss on each occasion. Sunday night merely added to a frustrating pattern that’s been building this season when the Tigers fell 58-56 at the hands of the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
With 50 seconds left, Missouri held a 2-point lead over the Bulldogs, who had defeated them 68-49 on Friday, and the Tigers just needed some successful late game management to give themselves a chance to win the game. Unfortunately, for Cuonzo Martin’s team, that never came.
Only moments later, Bulldogs star guard Iverson Molinar, who finished with 16 points, easily found his way through the Tigers’ defense and tied the game at 56. “[He] turned the corner, [and] that can’t happen,” Martin said after the game. “That’s an easy layup in a critical situation.”
With 37 seconds to play and a chance to regain their lead on the next possession, the Tigers got an open look from three for Boogie Coleman. After already making 3 threes in the game, Coleman didn’t have another up his sleeve as his shot rattled off the rim. A quick rebound allowed the Bulldogs to get in transition, and a strong finish at the rim from Shakeel Moore through a Javon Pickett foul put Mississippi State back on top.
Fortunately for the Tigers, Moore missed the second half of the 3-point play, and the Tigers had a chance to win or send the game to overtime.
With a timeout in hand, Cuonzo Martin elected to let his team play it out. “We didn’t want the timeout if he missed the shot,” Martin explained after the game. “We wanted to make a play.”
With the game on the line Javon Pickett brought the ball down the court and got a look from beyond the arc, but a great closeout from the Mississippi State defender forced a pump fake, and when the shot finally went up, it didn’t fall.
Game over. Bulldogs win 58-56.
Adding another heartbreaking loss in a season that’s been full of them is never fun, but the Tigers did get three stellar performances. Javon Pickett provided a game-high 16 points to go along with 4 assists and 4 rebounds, Kobe Brown added 12 of his own and 7 rebounds, while Boogie Coleman burst out of a recent scoring funk with 15 points.
“It was good to hit shots and help my teammates out,” Coleman said. “They kept their faith in me to hit me on catch and shoots and stuff.”
Unfortunately, for Coleman, Pickett, and Brown, they just didn’t quite have enough down the stretch in this one, but Pickett still believes this team is close to conquering their end-of-game demons.
“Just keep doing what we’re doing and just finish out games,” he said. “We go into every game feeling confident, we just got to keep going.”
The Tigers will now prepare for No. 16 Tennessee on Tuesday for what will be their third game in five days.