Disappointment has engulfed the Missouri men’s basketball team this season. And it has become more prevalent in Big 12 Conference play.
This season is littered with “What if?” games, where better results on a few possessions might have meant a victory instead of a loss.
The Tigers had a poor second half en route to a loss at California, were unable to finish off Illinois in the final minutes, blew a five-point halftime lead at home against Texas A&M, and lost to Oklahoma State on a last second shot Tuesday.
Saturday afternoon’s game against Baylor in Waco, Texas, is another game to add to that list.
With 14:16 remaining in the game, forward DeMarre Carroll made two free throws to give the Tigers their biggest lead at 69-56.
But after those two points, Baylor scored 14 unanswered points to take the lead and seize control of the game. It went back-and-forth for a little while, Missouri led by three with 6:58 to play, but the Bears pretty much dominated the final 14 minutes to win 100-89.
“It was a game of momentum, I thought it was going to be who had the run at the right time,” coach Mike Anderson said in a radio interview after the game. “They made some big shots going down the stretch, but I thought defensively we could have done a better job.”
Carroll said by phone after the game that he felt Missouri lost focus and wasn’t attacking Baylor in the same way it did in the first half.
“We started playing timid,” Carroll said. “We had the lead and started playing not to lose. When they came after us, they punched us and we didn’t punch back. We’ve just got to learn that when we’ve got the lead we’ve got to continue to attack and quit playing to try not to lose.”
Forward Leo Lyons was the star for the Tigers again. He set career-highs in points and rebounds in Tuesday’s game against Oklahoma State with 27 and 18. Saturday, he scored 22 points and grabbed 15 rebounds.
“I thought he had energy, but I thought in the second half he could’ve been a little bit more aggressive,” Anderson said.
Carroll was a bright spot for the Tigers in the second half, scoring all 17 of his points after halftime, he credited Lyons’ play with giving him an opportunity to post some big numbers.
“When you throw it in to me or him, teams can’t focus on defending one post guy,” Carroll said. “So that helped me out a lot with him playing at the level he’s playing at now.”
Carroll had been dealing with an injured right ankle for the better part of a month. Saturday’s game was the first time Carroll scored more than 10 points since the Feb. 4 game at Kansas.
“I just told myself to stop thinking about my injury and go out there and give it everything I’ve got,” Carroll said.
Carroll said his ankle was still hurting in the second half and that he just had to tough it out.
“It was just me playing through it, trying to man up,” Carroll said. “It was a mental thing. When something hurts, usually it affects you physically and mentally. I just tried not to let it affect me mentally and that kind of helped me do the little things that helped me play better.”
While Missouri had three players (Lyons, Carroll and Keon Lawrence) score in double figures, the Bears had seven players who accomplished the feat. Guard Henry Dugat led the way for Baylor with 18 points.
The Bears now have 20 wins for just the fourth time in school history. Baylor has had a men’s basketball team since 1906.