The Tigers (10-6, 1-3 in SEC play) played good defense, limiting the Aggies to 32.1 percent shooting, including just 4-of-22 (18.2 percent) on threes. Texas A&M was definitely out of sorts, even making just 13-of-25 free throws, and their coach criticized their effort after the game. But Missouri still deserves credit for playing hard, playing well, and bouncing back after a disheartening midweek loss to Alabama at home.
The game was pretty much Missouri’s perfect game. The Tigers kept their opponent from doing almost anything on offense. Guard Jordan Geist, after some tough shooting to start SEC play, made 6-of-7 shots for 17 points, along with 5 assists. Jeremiah Tilmon was a strong presence inside with 14 points and, after struggles with foul trouble, just one foul in 27 minutes played. The Tigers are a different team with Tilmon in the game and contributing.
But wait, there’s more. Sharpshooter Mark Smith chipped in 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, and Senior Kevin Puryear had 8 points and 10 rebounds. It was the type of efficient, all-around performance with several players making big contributions that shows the upside of this team, especially with some of the young contributors like Tilmon, Smith and Javon Pickett.
Saturday’s win prevented the disaster scenarios of a possible 0-7 start to SEC play that crept up when Missouri dropped the home game against Alabama. But instead it was encouraging enough to make Tiger fans think this team can avoid being one of the SEC bottom feeders.
Missouri has a chance to further make that case this week when they travel to Arkansas on Wednesday (8 p.m. on SEC Network). The Razorbacks (10-7, 1-4 in SEC) are off to a slow start in conference play, and Wednesday is the battle of teams who have only beaten Texas A&M in conference play.
Just like when he coached Missouri, Arkansas coach Mike Anderson is known for doing much better at home, but his teams are 0-2 in home SEC games. Bud Walton Arena is massive and can be one of the more daunting venues in the conference, although they have struggled at home and the atmoshphere isn’t quite the same, two decades removed from the Hogs’ glory days of the ’90s.
The Razorbacks do have some intriguing young players, led by NBA prospect sophomore Daniel Gafford, a long and athletic scorer. Freshman Isaiah is also a scoring threat, particularly from beyond the arc.
Missouri then finishes up the week by hosting LSU on Saturday (5 p.m. on SEC Network). LSU (14-3, 4-0 in SEC) is off to a hot start in conference play, and the Tigers look like an NCAA Tournament team. It should be a good test for the Missouri, and a chance to secure a quality win and build off the big win at Texas A&M.