Missouri traveled a long and winding road over the weekend, but eventually it led to an 85-75 loss at South Carolina on Sunday.
The game was originally scheduled for Saturday, but this was the weekend of snow in Columbia, with the area receiving about 20 inches of snow. South Carolina’s Columbia was decidedly warmer and sunnier, but getting there was the hard part. Missouri had a flight chartered to take them their, per usual, but after a plane slid off the Columbia airport runway in the winter weather, the airport closed, meaning the Tigers couldn’t fly and the game needed to be postponed.
Missouri rode a bus to Kansas City Saturday and got a flight to South Carolina that day, before playing a rare Sunday SEC men’s basketball game the next day.
The game itself went largely as expected, a competitive contest that South Carolina eventually won. Missouri (9-5, 0-2 in SEC) played its usual hits, a useful penchant for bursts of making three-pointers, a less useful penchant for turning the ball over, and foul trouble for Jeremiah Tilmon.
The Tigers committed 11 turnovers in the first half, but they made 7 of 11 threes to trail by only six at the half. But the three-point shooting cooled off in the second half, and every time Missouri would trim the deficit to three points, South Carolina would respond with a surge, including in the final minutes to put the game away.
The Gamecocks (8-7, 3-0 in SEC) did not look the best in nonconference play, but they’re off to a great start in SEC play, and there’s no shame losing here. There were even things from this game to be optimistic about, led by freshman Javon Pickett having his best game as a Tiger, 21 points while making 3 of 4 threes. Sophomore Mark Smith made 3 of 6 threes. There are young players contributing a lot.
On the flip side, Tilmon had a tough game, and he continues to be the bellwether of how things are going for the Tigers. Foul trouble continues to be an issue for him. A call or two against him on Sunday seemed like a tough one. It’s possible his reputation precedes him. But regardless of how iffy a call or two was in this game, the overall trend is too many fouls, meaning too few minutes played. Over the last three games, Tilmon has played just 34 minutes total, fouling out of all three, scoring just 11 points. When he’s in the game and playing well, Missouri is a different, better team.
Coupled with the blowout home loss to Tennessee to open SEC play, Missouri is now 0-2 in conference play and really needing a win. Both games this week are winnable, home vs. Alabama on Wednesday (8 p.m. on SEC Network) and at Texas A&M Saturday (2:30 p.m. on SEC Network). Both of those opponents started 1-2 in SEC play and these should be close to tossup games, so we should know more about Missouri after this week.