Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — The Missouri men’s basketball team found a way to score for the first 38:55 of Wednesday’s game against Mississippi.
The next step is going 1:05 more.
The Tigers held a four-point lead with 65 seconds to play, but the Rebels scored seven unanswered points in the game’s final minute to defeat Missouri 76-73.
“We just couldn’t get the stops at the end when we needed them,” Missouri coach Kim Anderson said. “But I was proud of the way our guys played. Played the whole game. Made some shots. Made some 3s. So hopefully this game, even though it’s disappointing right now, it will be a confidence builder.”
The Tigers shot 42 percent overall, including 10-of-21 from behind the 3-point line. It was a marked improvement on Missouri’s loss Saturday to Mississippi State, during which the Tigers made just 2-of-25 3-pointers.
“I think we shot the ball better because we moved it better,” Anderson said. “We got the ball inside the zone. We kicked it out.”
Stefan Moody had an unspectacular 23 points, shooting 33 percent, but came up with points when it mattered, drawing a foul to take the game’s final lead.
“He was very average tonight for his standard,” Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy said, “and he goes for 23 (points), eight (rebounds) and five (assists).”
Moody had 14 of his points in the first half and had been somewhat contained after halftime. Still, Missouri wasn’t surprised he was the one to make the play with the game on the line.
“We knew the ball was going to be in his hands,” point guard Terrence Phillips said. “He’s a great player, so there’s no reason the ball wouldn’t be in his hand.”
Wes Clark had two shots to take the lead in the game’s final 30 seconds, but he couldn’t quite get either to fall. Fourteen of Clark’s team-leading 20 points came in the second half.
“Those are tough shots,” said Namon Wright, who finished with 12 points, “and I thought they were going in. They didn’t fall for us. … If he makes those, it’s a whole different end of the night.”
Mississippi took 31 shots from 3-point land, hitting 14 of them. Kennedy credited the long-range barrage to the absence of 6-foot-9 forward Sebastian Saiz, who was out with an eye injury.
“He’s really our only low-post presence, a guy that we can throw it to the block,” Kennedy said “… So we just have to spread you.”
The Mississippi lead grew to double digits on consecutive baskets from Tomasz Gielo in the first two minutes of the second half. The Tigers responded with a 9-0 run, however, to get within one. A Mississippi free throw ended a 4:17 drought but Namon Wright hit Missouri’s third straight 3 to give the Tigers the lead for the first time since more than 15 minutes remained in the first half.
The Rebels answered with a 7-0 run of their own to go up six. But the Tigers stayed afloat with an 8-0 spell. Clark scored Missouri’s next seven points, putting the Tigers up four twice.
The teams traded leads once again, with Wright and Phillips hitting 3s. Missouri went up five on a Kevin Puryear dunk with 1:50 to go. Gielo sunk a 3 to cut the Missouri lead to one possession before Clark hit a jumper from the free-throw line and put Missouri up four.
Then came the 7-0 run.
A Gielo 3, a Moody drive and two free throws to take the lead and two Martavious Newby free throws to seal it.
“We didn’t execute defensively down the stretch like we should’ve, but hopefully we’ll learn from it,” Anderson said.
The loss was Missouri’s seventh straight. The Tigers dropped 13 straight last year in Anderson’s first season. Missouri (8-14) fell to 1-8 in SEC play. Mississippi (14-8) improved to 4-5 in conference.
The Tigers play Saturday at Alabama (12-9, 3-6) in search of their first road win of the season.
Note: The game’s attendance of 4,734 was a season low at Mizzou Arena. It was the first SEC men’s basketball game to draw fewer than 5,000 fans at Mizzou Arena.