In the closest road loss of the season, Missouri couldn’t dig itself out of a self-inflicted hole, and the Tigers fell to Texas A&M 63-57 in a game where the Aggies continually capitalized off of the Tigers’ mistakes.
Texas A&M didn’t play a pretty game at home offensively. MU saw its previous five Southeastern Conference opponents — Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Alabama and Florida — use its offense to keep the Tigers winless in SEC play, so it should have been a relief to see A&M shoot 28.8% from the field and 22.2% from behind the arc.
But the Tigers still weren’t able to get the job done. While MU shot 38.9% from the field, it performed poorly when it came to taking care of the basketball and preventing opportunities at the charity stripe.
Texas A&M shot 37 free throws against the Tigers, the most by an opponent against MU since Arkansas Pine-Bluff and Pittsburgh each shot 31. Five Tigers finished the night with four fouls.
Missouri also committed an uncharacteristic 15 turnovers, and the Aggies scored 21 points (33% of the total) off the takeaways.
“They got some easy baskets in transition,” Dennis Gates said post-game. “That obviously cost us from our turnovers. They had 21 points off our turnovers and were able to execute once they got that ball.”
Missouri still had a chance late in the contest but the late-game struggles and inability to close out the game haunted the Tigers. Over the final five minutes of play, the Tigers tallied just seven points, which came courtesy of Sean East II and Tamar Bates, who collected 33 of MU’s 55 points.
“We got great shots. I’m not worried about that,” Gates said. “But we weren’t able to execute how I wanted to in those situations.”
No other Tiger scored in double-figures. The next closest scorers were Nick Honor and Noah Carter with eight points each.
Early on, it seemed like it was going to be another Bates game. Texas A&M couldn’t keep him out of the paint early, and he easily maneuvered his way to the cup, helping the Tigers build an early 13-7 lead over the Aggies.
On the defensive side, the Tigers came out in a zone that flustered the Aggies as Buzz Williams’ squad got off to a slower start than they would’ve liked.
While it seemed like the Tigers were going to build and sustain a lead early on, a scoring drought made its regularly scheduled appearance.
The offensive consistency combined with foul trouble and aforementioned turnovers plagued the Tigers. Texas A&M reached the bonus mark before time went under 10 minutes in the first half. The free throw opportunities helped the Aggies go on a 13-2 run to cut the lead to one after Mizzou’s hot start.
Henry Coleman III gave the Aggies its first lead of the night with a pair of free throws and soon thereafter A&M’s run extended to 21-2 as MU simply got no good looks due to Texas A&M’s double teams forcing back-to-back shot clock violations for Missouri while Wade Taylor IV and Hayden Heffer heated up from behind the arc.
“Basketball is a game of runs. We can’t control if the ball is going in and out or not, but you can control your defense,” East said. “So we just got to focus on that and you know, how the game presents itself is how we got to deal with it.”
Gates said that the team's inability to control the ball during the timespan fueled the Aggies' run. “A bulk of our turnovers happened during that run,” he said. “I think we were seven-to-eight turnovers at that point in time and we were trying to make the right play and maybe off where we were supposed to be.”
The Tigers finally awakened out of their slump as Noah Carter, off the bench, went on a personal 6-0 run while Curt Lewis found his stride knocking down a monster 3-pointer capping off a 7-0 MU run.
It gave the Tigers momentum heading into the break only down five despite all the struggles it faced early on. “We held a team to six total field goals in the first half,” Gates said. “That’s a tremendous, tremendous thing. And we weren’t able to come into halftime with a lead in which I thought we should have been up 15 points, holding the team to that many field goals in the first half.”
Connor Vanover gave the Tigers its only lead of the second half with a dunk making it a 39-38 game with under 14 minutes to play, but seven straight points by Tyrece Radford gave the home team the lead for good.
Mizzou returns to the court on Saturday as it travels to South Carolina, who stunned the Tigers on Jan. 13, and the no. 6 Kentucky Wildcats at home earlier this evening. The game will be on the SEC Network at 12pm CT.