It just one of those nights for No. 2 Missouri.
The Tigers – fresh off a win at Baylor and at their highest in the AP poll since 1989-90 – simply couldn’t contain a hot-shooting team Wednesday night, losing 79-72 at Oklahoma State. Usually that’s what happens to the Tigers’ foes.
Mizzou entered the game with the nation’s most efficient offense, small-ball (it starts three guards and uses 6-6 wing Kim English as a power forward) that blends uncanny shooting (39.3 percent from deep; an eFG% of 58.1) and ball-handling (only three teams take better care of the ball), not to mention a defense with more than a few remnants of Mike Anderson’s tenure still evident in their number of steals.
The Tigers didn’t deviate from their usual style Wednesday; it just didn’t have the same result.
Mizzou (18-2) couldn’t hit from outside (4 of 19), but didn’t attempt any more 3s than normal. It committed 10 turnovers on about 70 possessions, which is standard for them. The Cowboys lost about one in every five possessions, also at Mizzou’s average.
The biggest difference, by far, was how the Cowboys shot. They hit 59.6 percent from the field, which is so far from ordinary for them, it’s shocking. Coach Frank Haith said his team lacked focus to win on the road, which means the players probably overlooked the Cowboys (10-10, 3-4 in the Big 12).
“I expected it to be a hard-fought game,” Haith said. “This is Big 12 basketball. There’s good players. We didn’t do what we needed to do to finish the game out once we got control of the game.”
That would be due to freshmen Brian Williams (22 points) and LeBryan Nash (27). Nash scored 13 points, mostly on 3s, during a 17-4 Oklahoma State run that carried the Cowboys down the stretch. Hard to contain a guy who gets hot. Ask Ohio State.
Also, this tends to excite the home team.
It’d be easy to write off Missouri as a team too dependent on 3s and too small to be a serious contender in March. But if as we’ve seen this season, this was the type of game that happens to Top 10 teams, no matter how experienced or talented they are. The Tigers could just as easily be the team on the other side, hitting shot after shot and gunning 3s.
They’ll keep gunning and keep beating teams. But these nights will happen, making the Tigers the ultimate hit-or-miss pick in March. I’d be willing to take my chances with Marcus Denmon & Co., though. They haven’t given me much reason to doubt them yet.
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