I saw a different effort from the Missouri basketball team on Wednesday night…one that hasn’t been there in quite some time. Right from the opening tip, not only were the Tigers active, but they were applying what they practiced on the court. Yes, it was still ugly at times, but Mizzou came back from down ten to take the lead, only to eventually lose 76-73.
After settling for outside shots against Mississippi State’s zone defense on Saturday, the Tigers were getting the ball inside against Ole Miss’ zone. The learning led to more free throw attempts and more open looks from the outside and when the Tigers were hitting both in the second half, they made their move.
The Tigers went 2-for-25 from three point range in their loss to Mississippi State, but this time looked prepared for another zone defense. Mizzou struggled from beyond the arc in the first half, but hit 7-of-9 in the second to turn a 42-32 deficit into a 71-66 lead with just under two minutes to play.
Tomasz Gielo hit two three-pointers down the stretch as Ole Miss attempted 31 deep balls in the game, a product of Andy Kennedy not having his top inside player. Gielo hit those two around a Wes Clark jumper leaving the Tigers up 73-72. After Clark had a layup roll out, Rebels leading scorer Stefan Moody got into the lane and was fouled by Terrence Phillips in what also could have been called a jump ball.
“You can’t let him get through the lane,” said coach Kim Anderson after the game.
Moody hit both free throws to put Ole Miss on top 74-73 and then Clark with under ten to play missed a short jumper. The Rebels hit two more free throws with 3.3 seconds left to seal the win.
Cullin VanLeer was late getting off a three-point try to tie the game.
“We knew the ball was going to be in his hands,” said Terrence Phillips, on Moody. “He does what great players do, they go in the lane and do what they have to do.”
Moody finished with 23 points, but it took him a 6-of-18 shooting night to get it done. Credit the Mizzou defense for stepping it up against their “go-to” guy.
Clark had 20 points including 10-for-10 at the free throw line for Missouri (8-14, 1-8 SEC), which has lost seven in a row. But there was enough to see in this game to at least say some progress was made.
Phillips added 14 points and five steals, a perfect 3-for-3 on three’s, Namon Wright had 12 points, hitting two clutch three’s when Mizzou was battling back. VanLeer had 10 points. The freshman who has struggled with his shooting found some of his touch and a bit of confidence.