An early surge from the Missouri Tigers (13-4, 2-3) proved not to be enough against the Florida Gators (10-7, 3-2), who picked up an emphatic 73-64 victory over the 20th-ranked Tigers in front of a faithful Gators’ crowd.
Florida picked up its third consecutive victory, all in Southeastern Conference play, behind a trio of double-digit scorers. The Gators’ leading scorer, Colin Castleton, tallied 16 points and 13 rebounds for his third double-double of the season.
Will Richard and Riley Kugel, a pair of underclassmen guards, added 18 and 13 points, respectively. The duo, who shot a combined 7-12 from beyond the arc, added an element of outside shooting to the offense that allowed Castleton to find success within the paint.
Entering the Stephen C. O’Connell Center (otherwise known as the O’Dome) on Saturday, Mizzou searched for their first Southeastern Conference road victory against a Florida program looking to build off victories over Georgia and LSU.
The Tigers, who suffered an 18-point defeat to Texas A&M earlier in the week, looked poised to cruise to a bounce-back victory over Florida, jumping out to an 11-0 advantage behind their token transition offense within the game’s first five minutes.
Over the remaining 15 minutes of the first half, however, the Tigers’ offense mustered just 17 points, seven of which came via the free throw line, and connected on only five of their 23 shot attempts.
That lack of success came despite the fact that Mizzou forced the Florida offense into 14 first half turnovers, grabbed two more offensive rebounds than the Gators, and scored more points in the paint—all areas that have haunted the Tigers throughout the season.
Kobe Brown, Tre Gomillion, and Noah Carter each posted double-digit point games for Mizzou. Brown, whose midseason resurgence has willed the Tigers to several influential victories, led the way one again with 21 points.
Gomillion scored 11 points, his most since Nov. 7 against Southern Indiana, and Carter added 12 points and five rebounds.
Noticeably quiet from the scoring was D’Moi Hodge, who leads the Tigers in scoring, and Nick Honor, Mizzou’s efficient point guard who committed a season-high three turnovers. The guard duo scored just eight points after totaling 19 combined points against Texas A&M.
Florida quieted the high-scoring transition-heavy Mizzou offense with a defensive emphasis focused on preventing those fast break opportunities. The Gators allowed just six fast break points despite turning the ball over 19 times.
Behind Castleton, Florida also found success on the offensive glass, specifically in the second half when the Gators scored 12 second-chance points en route to outscoring the Tigers 43-36 over the game’s final frame.
Mizzou, who actually grabbed more offensive rebounds than Florida in the game’s entirety, did not capitalize on those added opportunities, notching only six second-chance points on 10 offensive rebounds.
The Tigers also struggled for the second consecutive game from beyond the arc. After shooting 22.6% from three-point range against the Aggies, Mizzou did no better against Florida, posting an unimpressive 16.7% mark.
On the opposite end, however, the Gators shot 43.5% from distance, emphasizing a weakness that has been present for Mizzou all season long— three point field goal defense.
Opportunities to bounce back from a pair of road defeats will not come easily for the Tigers, who return home Wednesday to face a ranked Arkansas team (who just lost to Vandy) and then host No. 5 Alabama on Jan. 21.
After the Dennis Gates-led Missouri Tigers made their impact felt in late December and early January, they’ve fallen off in recent weeks, struggling to establish a half court offense once their transition offense is cut off.
Florida marked yet the latest example of this, constantly forcing contested shots and watching as Mizzou jumpers and three-point attempts seemingly never connected. The Gators also forced 14 turnovers, while capitalizing on those with 14 points. Mizzou matched Florida’s 14 points off turnovers despite forcing five more turnovers themselves.
A couple possible silver linings for Mizzou are the fact that the Tigers nearly matched Florida in the battle of the boards, grabbing just one rebound less, and they actually controlled the paint scoring (42-26).
Those positives could not make up for the inefficiency that has haunted Mizzou in SEC road games though, and it’ll be an area to watch as the Tigers continue conference play against several of the SEC’s top contenders and look to notch a season-defining win.