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Defense cannot overcome quiet offense in Mizzou Hoops loss to Texas A&M

The Tigers dropped their second consecutive SEC contest, struggling to establish offensive consistency or convert fast break opportunities.

Texas A&M v Missouri Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images

D’Moi Hodge stole a loose ball, sprinted free of the pack of Texas A&M defenders and rose up for a thunderous dunk.

Instead of a coming down to a frenzied roar, however, the sellout crowd at Mizzou Arena Saturday looked in dismay as the guaranteed points thumped off the back of the rim and into the hands of an awaiting Aggies’ rebounder.

That missed opportunity epitomized the Tigers’ 69-60 defeat to Texas A&M, their fourth consecutive loss to the Aggies at home. Texas A&M also took down Mizzou on Jan. 11, cruising to an 18-point victory in College Station.

“We played the game from behind (for) more than 39 minutes,” Missouri head coach Dennis Gates said. “That’s a tough spot to be in. We didn’t do enough and we have to be able to convert how we need to convert.”

Missouri men’s basketball (19-8, 7-7 SEC) replicated its uninspiring offensive effort from just five days ago, when it shot 31.6% from the field and 22.7% from beyond the arc in a 33-point loss to Auburn.

The Tigers finished 20-of-51 from the field and tallied just nine 3-pointers against an athletic Texas A&M defense. Mizzou scored 25 first half points and never found its offensive intensity for consistent periods of time.

“Sometimes we have games like that,” senior guard Kobe Brown said. “We just have to come out and make shots next time (and) keep forcing teams to turn the ball over.”

Graduate Dexter Dennis and sophomore Wade Taylor IV formed a fierce guard tandem for the Aggies, outscoring the entire Tigers’ offense in the first half. The former finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season, while the latter added a team-high 21 points and six assists.

“(Dennis’) story is not being told at the rate that it should be,” Texas A&M head coach Buzz Williams said. “He’s just one of the more competitive people I’ve ever been able to be around.”

Their efforts overshadowed an effective seven-point, eight-rebound outing from junior forward Julius Marble, who helped to make life difficult for Mizzou in the paint.

Texas A&M demolished Mizzou in the rebounding battle 41-23, showcasing their brute physicality and size advantage. The Aggies grabbed 16 offensive rebounds and translated those into 12 second-chance points.

“Our offensive rebounding percentage, before it went analytically final, was 59%,” Williams said. “That’s a big part of what helped us overcome our turnover rate.”

Brown tried to provide a counter to Texas A&M’s consistency. He finished with a team-high 24 points and six rebounds but found little support from those around him.

Graduate guard D’Moi Hodge, a usual spark plug for the Tigers’ offense, had a noticeably quiet performance despite shooting nearly 43% from behind the arc. He notched 12 points and added six steals.

Mizzou’s offensive woes surfaced despite a bounce-back defensive effort. The Tigers forced 21 Aggies’ turnovers. However, those miscues culminated in only 15 points, a mark that barely out-performed Texas A&M who finished with 11 points on 12 Mizzou turnovers.

“How can you have 14 steals and only 15 points off turnovers?,” Gates asked. “We got to draw fouls in those situations or come away with the easy basket.”

The Tigers forced most of those turnovers (13 to be exact) in the first half alone, which kept them within striking distance even with a 30% field goal percentage.

Texas A&M leapt out to a quick 7-3 lead as Mizzou made just one of its first nine field goal attempts. However, the momentum flipped behind Brown and Hodge, who pieced together their own 8-2 response to give the Tigers a one-point advantage with 13 minutes remaining in the first half.

After that make though, Mizzou went scoreless for the next five minutes. Amidst their quiet stretch, Taylor and Dennis combined for seven consecutive points to give the Aggies the lead once again, and this time, they would not relinquish it.

Looking to respond, the Tigers instead watched as Texas A&M closed the final eight minutes of the first half on a 28-9 run. The Aggies pieced together three different runs of at least four consecutive points, including a 7-0 run that extended their lead to 10 points at the time.

Mizzou’s deficit built all the way up to 18 points with 13:38 remaining in the game, which is when the Tigers made their effective comeback attempt behind Brown, senior guard Sean East II and Hodge.

“I’m extremely proud of the fact that our second half looked a certain way compared to the first half when we got down,” Gates said.

The trio led a 13-3 push in less than five minutes, trimming Texas A&M’s advantage to just eight points. Aggies’ senior guard Tyrece Radford put an end to the Mizzou rally with a momentum-changing 3-pointer at the 8:30 mark. Radford scored 12 points on the evening.

The Tigers would go on to attempt only six more shots while also finding little success at the free throw line. Mizzou shot 68.8% from the charity stripe overall, while Texas A&M made 17-of-19 opportunities from the line.

Inefficiency continues to plague the Tigers’ offense and it’ll be a problem they need to solve if Mizzou would like to dance in the NCAA Tournament come March.

In their Southeastern Conference losses, the Tigers are shooting 147-for-401 (36.66%) from the field and 39-of-167 (23.4%) from beyond the arc.

Mizzou’s path to regaining confidence will not become any easier as the Tigers take on the vaunted Mississippi State defense at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Columbia. The Bulldogs held Mizzou to a season-low 52 points in the Tigers’ loss in Starkville on Feb. 4.