(Photo by Chris Lee/St. Louis Post Dispatch)
In a tale of two halves, Missouri fell 78-66 in Cincinnati to a pretty decent Xavier club that reached the Sweet Sixteen the previous year.
In the first half Missouri played okay, but Xavier took some bad shots and let the Tigers hang around. There just wasn’t much flow from either team and fouls and turnovers prevented that.
Tramaine Isabell scored eight points to lead the way, including a bucket with under five seconds in the half to cut the Musketeers lead to one.
Missouri did lead briefly, but probably felt pretty good going into the locker room only down 37-36.
The second half was a different story. It wasn’t that fouling and turnovers weren’t an issue anymore, it’s just that Xavier began to capitalize on them, and we began to see the youth in this Missouri team.
There were too many possessions of moving the ball around the perimeter as opposed to attacking the basket, forcing contested jump shots.
Cullen VanLeer made a layup with 9:59 remaining in the game and the Tigers did not score again until Ryan Rosburg made a free throw at the 5:57 mark. Sandwiched between that were five turnovers.
It was a seven point game that ballooned into a 15 point game and Missouri couldn’t get enough stops on defense to give itself a chance.
VanLeer did have a hot hand late, hitting two threes to cut the lead to 10, but didn’t shoot again for three minutes. He was really the only Tiger to have any sort of consistency in the second half, while everyone else went cold.
It’s not surprising that no one was able to get into a rhythm, as floor general and energy man Terrence Phillips found himself on the bench early. He was in and out of the rotation in the second half, but ticky-tacky fouls prevented him to work at his best.
That was the case for the whole team too. Only Rosburg and Jakeenan Gant, who each contributed one point, had only one foul. The rest of the team all had at least two. As a result, Xavier went to the line 29 times, converting 24 of them.
In addition to the free points at the foul line, Missouri turned the ball over 18 times that resulted in 21 points to the home team. That was the difference right there.
This team is not Kim Anderson’s 9-23 squad from last year. This team plays harder, smarter, and with a sense of cohesion, but they’re young.
This was not an easy first game for a lot of newcomers. For one half at least, this was a ballgame. Few, if anyone expected them to win, I know I didn’t. This was probably a humbling loss after a hot start to the season, which may prove to be very beneficial in the long run.
For now the Tigers get a little bit of a break and won’t play again until next Monday in the opening round of the CBE Classic against former Big 12 foe Kansas State in Kansas City.