Just as Missouri men’s basketball had a game unlike any other against Florida Saturday, there was another case of the same Tuesday at Mississippi State.
But unlike the 91-75 win over the Gators, this was no exciting statement win full of posterizing dunks and 3-pointers on command. Tuesday was a brutal 72-45 loss for Missouri — and a full-fledged nightmare.
The Tigers went down 40-20 in the first half and never recovered as the Bulldogs — without a Southeastern Conference win entering the game — played like a team desperate for one. Meanwhile, with more turnovers (13) than field goals (8) in the first 20 minutes, Missouri was playing like a team still hungover from the highs of the Florida win.
The loss drops Missouri to 9-7 overall and 1-3 in SEC. It’s the Tigers’ lowest score on the season by a sizeable margin: The previous low was 52 points against Butler at the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City on Nov. 25.
“Just a lot of things that weren’t characteristic of us,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said about his team’s performance in a postgame radio interview with KTGR. “(I) didn’t understand it. We spent a lot of time talking about being aggressive, setting a tone, attacking the rim (and) making plays and just didn’t do it. Why? I couldn’t tell you.”
It’s not quite the most lopsided loss of Maritn’s tenure as a 92-58 loss to Auburn last season holds that distinction. But it could certainly be argued as Martin’s most deflating defeat.
Mississippi State made its presence known early in the paint with Tigers forward Jeremiah Tilmon Jr. out for the third straight game due to a stress fracture. Bulldog forwards Reggie Perry, Robert Woodard II and Abdul Ado combined for 25 total points in the first half alone, with MSU scoring as many points in the paint (20) in the half as the Tigers had in total.
Perry, one of the only five players in Power 5 conferences to average a double double per game, earned yet another one against the Tigers by scoring a game-high 23 points to go along with 10 rebounds. It’s the third time in four SEC games that the Tigers have allowed a starting forward (Kentucky’s Nick Richards and Florida’s Kerry Blackshear were the others) to score over 20 points.
Mississippi State only went 5 for 13 (38.5%) from 3-point range, but it was a matter of who hit those shots that Martin felt gave the Bulldogs something to cheer about. For example, Perry — who entered the game with 11 made 3-pointers on the season — hit two against the Tigers to lead MSU.
Kobe Brown was Missouri’s brightest star on a dim night for the team, finishing with a team-high 14 points and four rebounds.
“They had their way ... from start to finish,” Martin said. “We gave too much comfort, so now you have guys not normally making 3s making 3s and getting out in transition. We didn’t have a presence to us defensively. Those guys coming in needed a win stayed aggressive and (were being) assertive, and we just didn’t get it done.”
Helped by 18 points off of Tiger turnovers, the Bulldogs shot 61% before halftime. From then on after the intermission, it was all about keeping Missouri at arm’s length.
Missouri cut the lead down to 15 points at the under-16 minute media timeout of the second half thanks to a 9-4 run to start, but Mississippi State then responded with a 13-4 run of its own, eventually extending the lead to as wide as a 34-point deficit.
After shooting a season-high 63.2% from 3-point range against Florida, Missouri followed it by shooting 20% against the Bulldogs, the fourth time this season that the Tigers shot 20% or less from deep.
“One thing I said to the guys is that they don’t lack talent,” Martin said. “0-3 in the conference, they don’t lack talent at all. So now all of sudden they come to play, they get their heads up, it’s a different ball game. They came to play and we allowed them to get their heads up and make plays.”
The Tigers now must recover in time for Saturday’s game at Alabama. The game is scheduled to tipoff at 2:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on the SEC Network.