Mizzou showed flashes of life but ultimately fell to Texas A&M by a score of 79-60 at Mizzou Arena on Wednesday night.
Leading scorer and starting point guard Sean East II missed this game with a knee contusion that he suffered against Vanderbilt on Saturday.
As a result, Nick Honor stepped up and channeled some of his offensive firepower from last season. He finished with 19 points on 8-for-16 shooting, which was a season-high in scoring and shots taken for the veteran guard. Tamar Bates and Noah Carter added on 31 combined points, but no other Tiger scored more than five.
Tyrece Radford, fresh off a 26-point performance against Florida on Saturday, led the way for the Aggies with 22 points. Wade Taylor IV poured in 18 as well, and Andersson Garcia reeled in a whopping 16 boards on his own (to go along with 7 points).
The Aggies claimed a 41-35 advantage on the glass in the first matchup with these Tigers, a respectable number for Mizzou when going up against the nation’s second-best rebounding squad.
But, Buzz Williams’ bunch one-upped themselves in COMO, securing a 40-22 advantage on the boards and controlling the pace of the game as a result.
“I don’t know the last time one of our guys had double-digit rebounds,” Gates said of TAMU’s rebounding advantage. “And then you have a guy (Garcia) who grabs 16 rebounds.”
On top of that, the Aggies overcame a 24% mark from behind the arc to win thanks to 24 points off 12 Mizzou turnovers and a 48-26 advantage in paint points.
Out of the gates, the Tigers looked like they might not miss a beat without East in the lineup.
The two teams traded buckets throughout the first ten minutes of the game, as Honor appeared to be hell-bent on hunting his shot with his backcourt running mate not playing. He finished with nine points on 4-for-8 shooting in the opening frame, and it was the most aggressive that Honor had looked since his 10-0 run that sparked the Minnesota rally back in November.
“I just really wanted to win,” Honor said. “Coach has been getting on to me about being aggressive, so I just want to stay aggressive. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really mean anything if we don’t win.”
Carter added some offense as well, and a Mabor Majak and-one put back dunk at the under eight timeout allowed the Tigers to claim a 23-22 lead. With the Hawaiian-themed student section at their back, Gates and Co. appeared to be have momentum on their side.
“It was electric,” Curt Lewis said of Majak’s dunk. “He gave us momentum as a team and got our home crowd back on our feet.”
That would be the last time that Mizzou led in this game. With the Tigers going scoreless for nearly eight minutes of action, the Aggies took advantage, scoring 16 straight points to claim a 38-25 lead going into the break. Despite great effort from Majak and Aidan Shaw on the glass, TAMU claimed a 23-14 edge in that category at halftime.
Staring a 13-point deficit in the eyes coming out of the break, the Tigers showed some visible fire while cutting into the lead. Bates began to heat up, pouring in seven points in the first six minutes of action, while the Aggies only managed to score six points total during that span. Some improved defense from Mizzou helped, as it forced three turnovers that created some easy opportunities on the other end.
With its lead cut to 44-40 at the 14:50 mark, Texas A&M responded with some haymakers of its own. Radford was on a mission to either finish at the rim or get to the line, and he did plenty of both to extend the Aggies’ lead back out to 56-45 with just under 10 minutes to go.
Much like the first half (and much of the season), a cold shooting stretch plagued the Tigers in the final frame. Mizzou went scoreless for nearly three minutes of action, which allowed TAMU to claim a comfortable advantage that it would not relinquish.
“It’s almost like we have to play perfect basketball, especially with our injuries,” Gates said.
The Tigers will complete the home stand against Mississippi State (15-8, 4-6) on Saturday at 7:30 CST. The game be seen on the SEC Network.