(Photo by L.G. Patterson/Associated Press)
In the sort of State of the Union feature I wrote about the Missouri basketball program I asked if they were better than last year’s team. Tonight I walked out of Mizzou Arena with the conclusion that they are not better than last season’s 9-23 squad.
Through poor free throw shooting, poor defense, and with some help from the officials, Missouri got ran over by Anthony “Cat” Barber’s NC State Wolfpack 73-59. It was not that close.
The Tigers actually came out of the gates very strong, and built a 19-9 lead with good shooting and solid defense. However instead of stomping on their throat right then and there, they let the Wolfpack, mainly Barber, crept back into the game.
Barber had 19 points at the half, the final three came from a buzzer beater at the end of the half. There NC State went up 29-28 for their first lead of the evening. The momentum was completely stolen, but Missouri still had to feel pretty good after a solid first half.
I don’t like to say that a game can be won or lost solely on one play (aside from an actual end of game buzzer beater) but I had no faith that the Tigers would comeback after Wes Clark airballed a wide open floater right in front of the basket.
If the game is close at the half, the rest of the game is usually won in the first four minutes of the second half. By the first TV timeout, the Wolfpack lead grew to six and they started to run away with it.
The Tigers went on a 3:58 scoring drought as they fell behind 13. Any chance of a Mizzou comeback after that would be squandered at the free throw line on both ends.
Missouri was 8-19 from the charity stripe while a plethora of questionable calls on the home team led to 30 opportunities for the Wolfpack. Barber himself went to the line 15 times, and added 13 points. He finished with 33.
Watching Barber tonight showed me exactly what Missouri is missing: a guy. A guy who everyone knows game in and game out can carry the team when needed. There is not one “guy” on this team, there’s a lot of solid role players, but none who can “put the team on his back”.
As far as individual performers, Cullen VanLeer hit four three pointers for 12 points for the Tigers’ game high.
I really liked what I saw from Tramaine Isabell tonight, but even after a really good first half running the show, Kim Anderson put him on the bench in favor of Clark for most of the second.
There are not a lot of positives to point to from tonight. The game just confirmed that Mizzou can’t put two solid, consistent halves together.
Up next is Illinois for Braggin’ Rights on Wednesday. Given that Illinois scored 91 points today in a win over South Dakota, I don’t like this matchup for the Tigers.
I said that if Mizzou were to lose the game tonight, they would not get a win over Illinois. That’s the reality of it now. Unless some divine intervention happens with this team over the next few days, tonight marked the beginning of a rocky end to the season before conference play even starts.