Missouri lost another game on Saturday, falling 75-65 at Ole Miss. It kicked off a tough four-game stretch for the Tigers (12-12, 3-9 in SEC play through Sunday) as the season makes its way into the homestretch.
Missouri showed a lot of grit and kept battling hard in this game, repeatedly trimming the lead in the second half, only to have Ole Miss (18-7, 8-4 in SEC) pull away. The Rebels finally put the game away in the last couple of minutes.
A college basketball season can become a slog of games as things progress, but this one was pretty illustrative of Missouri’s season as a whole. If you only saw this game, you’d have a pretty good idea of what the Tigers are this year. Missouri leaned on its strength, making three points, connecting on 8 of their 17 attempts (47.1 percent). But they also committed a ghastly 25 turnovers, making the comeback nearly impossible. And in the end, they lost a conference game by double digits, which has been the case in 7 of Missouri’s 9 SEC losses through the weekend, with another loss coming by nine points.
Jordan Geist used his grand arsenal of head fakes and craftiness to score 23 points, and talented freshman guard Xavier Pinson had 11 points (on just five field goal attempts), 9 rebounds and 3 assists. The encouraging signs from freshmen Pinson, Javon Pickett and Torrence Watson have been one of the highlights of this season, hope that coach Cuonzo Martin and the Tigers will be playing bigger games next year.
Missouri began the week tied for 11th in the SEC, needing a late surge to avoid having to play on “Play-in game night,” the dreary opening round of the SEC Tournament featuring the conference’s worst teams. A top-10 finish would also qualify Missouri for the Big 12-SEC challenge each of the next two seasons, which would be fun for the fans and the players.
According to the efficiency ratings of college basketball analyst Ken Pomeroy, Missouri has the 12th best offense in the 14-team SEC, and the 11th best defense in the conference, so the Tigers will need all-around improvement as they rebuild for next year.
As for this season, on Saturday Missouri travels to Florida (3 p.m. on ESPN/ESPN2/ESPNU, check listings). The Gators (14-11, 6-6 in SEC had a big win at Alabama last Saturday, but their season has been a bit of a disappointment so far.
But Florida is still good enough to provide a tough test for the Tigers, especially in their arena. Senior KeVaughn Allen leads the Gators in scoring, and freshman guards Andrew Nembhard and Noah Locke are good young players. Freshman forward Keyontae Johnson senior center Kevarrius Hayes get after rebounds well.
Missouri will need to play their best game to pull the upset in this one, but even if it looks like another loss, it’s still a chance for the Tigers to compete hard and for the young players to get more experience in a tough road environment.