(Photo Credit: AP Photo/ L.G. Patterson)
The SEC hasn’t been kind to the Missouri Tigers as they dropped their 11 straight Saturday to Mississippi State 77-74. Johnathan Williams III led all scorers with a career-high 27-point performance, but despite a late three-pointer, was unable to power Missouri to a victory.
The Bulldogs plagued the Tigers with a great offensive effort shooting a combined 56 percent from the floor, 66 percent in the first half. Roquez Johnson and Craig Sword each registered 22 points leading Mississippi State to its 12th win of the season.
The Tigers saw two of three suspended players return in Namon Wright and Montaque Gill-Caesar. Gill-Caesar continued to struggle shooting the ball hitting just one of his eight attempts. Wright on the other hand made a slight impact in his return to action with six points and three boards.
After a decent start the Tigers fell behind when the Bulldogs used an 18-5 run to pull away with a significant lead heading into the under eight media timeout. Led by junior center Ryan Rosburg Missouri generated momentum with a 7-point run, which put some life into the sparse crowd at Mizzou Arena. Rosburg had 12 points on the afternoon on 6-7 shooting, one of his better performances this year.
The Bulldogs led the Tigers 41-29 at the break.
After coming out cold to open the half Missouri orchestrated a solid offensive push with most of the help coming from Williams III. Williams III capped off a 9-point stretch with a three-pointer to bring the Tigers within six 46-40.
Following a media timeout Missouri made quite a few runs, but Mississippi State was able to match every one of them. The Bulldogs converted 26 of 33 attempts from the charity stripe compared to Missouri’s 14-21, which turned out to be the difference maker.
In the final seconds Williams III converted on a three-pointer to bring the Tigers within one, but that’s as close as they would come. Mississippi State won by a final of 77-74 handing Missouri its 11 straight loss in conference action.
Despite the continuous struggles for the Tigers and the reality that they will likely miss out on a 10-win season, they played hard down the stretch in the second half. The return of Wright and Gill-Caesar adds some much needed depth to this depleted team, especially in the wake of Wes Clark’s injury.
Rosburg and Williams III each have shown improvements over the past year and have both turned into strong contributors for this team. If the young freshmen class can make that same transition over the course of this year into next it would do wonders for Kim Anderson and his staff.
The Tigers have to work on the fundamentals though. Missing easy shots and not converting at the free throw line have killed Missouri this season. I can count at least nine games that came down to the Tigers not converting free throws resulting in a loss. That is simply unacceptable.
The Tigers are next in action Feb. 18 at #24 Arkansas.
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