Missouri lost two games last week, but both were efforts you could take some encouragement from, scrappy losses in tough situations. 

On Tuesday, the Tigers lost 66-58 at home to a surging, talented Kentucky team. Then, on Saturday, playing on the road against Florida and with Tiger Mark Smith again out with injury, Missouri lost 64-60 in a game they led for much of the second half.

Missouri (12-14, 3-1 in SEC play through Sunday) showed a lot of resolve and competitive fire, rallying late against Kentucky (23-4, 12-2 in SEC) and nearly pulling the upset of Florida (16-11, 8-6 in SEC) as a big underdog.

Still, it’s hard to get too excited about a week where your team went 0-2. The Tigers now sit at 12th in the 14-team SEC, and it’s a long shot that they’ll be able to avoid being one of the bottom four teams who play on the opening night of the SEC Tournament. And sophomore big man Jeremiah Tilmon was limited to just 15 minutes due to foul trouble, and fouled out yet again.

But this is a rebuilding year, so let’s focus on the positives. Freshman Javon Pickett scored 15 points in a strong 36 minutes. Freshman Torrence Watson remains a streaky shooter, but when the threes are going in, as three of his nine Saturday did, you can imagine down the road him making shots that help put Missouri over the top.

Of course, it’s not all about the young players. Senior Jordan Geist used his scrappiness and resourcefulness scoring 16 points and committing just one turnover in 39 minutes of game time.

Missouri as a whole kept its turnover issues in check, committing just 10 turnovers in the game. The Tigers led 40-28 in the second half, but the Gators reeled them in, led by KeVaughn Allen, who scored 17 points in the game.

Missouri has another shot at a win on Saturday, when they return home to face South Carolina (2:30 p.m. on SEC Network). The Gamecocks (14-13, 9-5 in SEC) went 5-8 in nonconference play, but they’ve improved dramatically in SEC play, starting the week tied for fourth in the conference.

Senior Chris Silva and freshman A.J. Lawson both average 14.0 points per game for South Carolina. Silva also leads the team in rebounding, and Lawson is the assists leader. The head coach is a familiar face, Frank Martin, who used to come to Mizzou Arena as the K-State coach for five seasons, and is now in his seventh season at South Carolina, which included a Final Four in 2017.

Saturday’s game kicks off a three-game stretch of winnable games, home against South Carolina, at Georgia, and home against Ole Miss, to finish the season. It’s a chance for Missouri to end the season on a good note, and hopefully generate some positive momentum heading into an important offseason for the program.

By Benjamin Herrold