If Missouri wanted to end a 10-game losing streak, its offense was going to have to arrive against one of the best defensive teams in the Southeastern Conference. Unfortunately, that didn’t come to fruition as Missouri fell to Mississippi State 75-51 at Mizzou Arena.
For the Tigers, they drop to 8-16 and 0-11 in conference play while Mississippi State improves to 15-8 and 4-6. The Tigers’ 11-game losing streak in SEC play is now two away from the consecutive conference loss streak that MU experienced in Kim Anderson’s first year during the 2014-15 season.
Against the Bulldogs, Missouri experienced why the visitors from Starkville, Mississippi ranks in the top 20 in defense efficiency according to KenPom. The Tigers were held to just 34% shooting from the field, their second-worst mark of the year, the Memphis game was worse (.316). From behind the arc, the Tigers shot 16.7%, worst mark of the year.
Most of the bad came in the second half for the Tigers. Mississippi State outscored MU 45-25 behind Cameron Matthews and Shakeel Moore Jr. It was Shakeel that gave the Bulldogs momentum for good over the final 20 minutes. Less than four minutes into the half, Moore knocked down a step-back 3-pointer in a sequence that had Tamar Bates turned around and Shakeel turning from the hoop following his release (he knew it was going in.)
That made the score 38-28, which would be the closest the Tigers would come in the second half. Without Sean East II, Missouri was going to need veterans like Noah Carter and Tamar Bates to help fill a void and mount a comeback, but both were cold all night as the two combined for six-of-22 shooting.
For the fourth time in five games, Missouri recorded a double-digit turnover number, days after Dennis Gates said he wanted the team to stay under seven. The Tigers committed a season-high 20.
“I credit Mississippi State because 15 of those 20 were steals. They were live ball so I credit them,” Gates said. “I credit them for playing a very physical game and do it in a way that didn’t allow them to foul as much as I know they could have.”
The combination of offensive inefficiencies to go along with MSU’s run in the second half took away anything positive in the first half.
“It was like anytime we try to get a little wind just from scoring or getting back in transition, they either came up with a offensive rebound or a putback and-1,” said Nick Honor on the Bulldogs second-half run.
In a season where the Tigers’ inside game has struggled, Jordan Butler and Mabor Majak added positive production early for the Tigers. Butler confidently scored over the older Tolu Smith III before successfully getting to and converting at the free throw line. After Majak subbed in for the freshman, who had scored fourth points, the 7-foot-2 graduate stuffed Cameron Matthews for a block while forcing a defensive stand on the next trip down as MU led 6-5 early.
“Mississippi State is one of the most physical teams in the country, the most physical teams in the conference,” Gates said. “I thought our guys stood that in the first half.”
But from there the offense stalled, going lifeless while Mississippi State’s Josh Hubbard went on a personal 4-0 run pushing the Bulldogs lead. Jesus Carralero-Martin, who returned after missing three games, ended the Tigers’ three-plus minute scoring drought with an underhand layup, cutting it back two, but the MSU lead ballooned back to eight behind Hubbard, Keshawn Murphy and Shakeel Murphy.
This isn’t the first time during conference play that Missouri has experienced losing grip of early first half momentum before the break, and Saturday was yet another example.
On a surge by Nick Honor and Noah Carter, two players who have stepped up after recent cold stretches in SEC play, and Tamar Bates, the Tigers wheeled their way back into the contest.
The Bulldogs made one last run in the first half to go up 30-20, but Honor knocked down a pair of triples, breathing life back into the 10,000-plus at Mizzou Arena and making it just a four-point game going into the locker room.
“The first half I truly believe our guys went out and competed to the best of their ability,” Gates said. “We fought our hearts out. We fought in the second half, we tried to fight but we just ran out of gas. That’s what I would say. I wish we could put those two halves together.”
Honor was the Tigers’ leading scorer on the night with 15 points on 4-of-9 shooting, including going 3-of-6 from behind the arc.
“I felt like the need to step up a lot,” said Honor on Sean East II’s absence.
Missouri gets a week off before returning the court. The Tigers will take on Mississippi on the road next Saturday. The game will be shown on the SEC Network at 7:30 p.m. CT.