KANSAS CITY — You could tell by a feeling in your stomach. It might take a few minutes or even a half of a game, but relatively early in the game, a sensation would emerge.
All year long you would get a sense of how Missouri would play that way.
When your stomach started to tingle at the sight of good basketball and team energy, the Tigers were on their way to a win.
When the passes were getting sloppy and there was a dull pit of nothingness inside of you, the game clock would expire with Missouri on the losing end, as though there was nothing that could be done to change it.
The nothingness trumped the tingling on Thursday night and Missouri lost to Nebraska 61-56 in the first round of the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
“For some reason, it just seemed like what you saw today has kind of been a (synopsis) of our season,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said.
It wasn’t that Nebraska played great or even that Missouri played poorly. The game was close throughout, and bad possessions for the Tigers piled up.
A quick shot that clanked off the rim, a pass through a teammate’s legs, a missed layup — it was too much to overcome. It was too much to correct in one night.
“I don’t think it was anything Nebraska did,” forward DeMarre Carroll said. “I think we just beat ourselves. Every time we got close, we shot ourselves in the foot by getting a turnover ... or looking for the refs to make a certain call.”
Even when Nebraska missed, somebody was able to come up with an offensive rebound, and on the new possession a basket was usually the result. The Cornhuskers had 17 second chance points compared to four for Missouri.
“I didn’t see the energy today,” Carroll said. “We just didn’t have the energy.”
One of Carroll’s teammates felt the same way.
“Especially the first five minutes of the second half, it was just like no energy,” guard Keon Lawrence said. “We couldn’t get to spots like we normally do, and it was like a lack of energy.”
A few times during the game, Lawrence could be seen hunched over, tugging at his shorts while shaking his head.
“I was definitely just, like, devastated, and kind of lost a little bit, just knowing that we had to pick it up,” Lawrence said. “I was frustrated a little bit, but I was trying to not show it toward my team, so they won’t see that I’m down.”
Lawrence said he was thinking: “They aren’t just going to give us this game, we’ve got to pick it up. Those other two games we played (against Nebraska) didn’t mean anything coming into this game, because everybody was zero-zero.”
Keon Lawrence and fellow guard Matt Lawrence tried to shoot the Tigers to victory; they combined to make seven of their 13 3-point attempts. But only two other 3-point shots fell for the Tigers.
Nebraska coach Doc Sadler said limiting the Missouri’s 3-point shots was something that the Cornhuskers wanted to accomplish. He said he was disappointed in Nebraska’s 3-point defense Thursday.
“When we won at Missouri, they made three (3-pointers). When they beat us in Lincoln, they made 11,” Sadler said. “So that was a conscious effort, and we gave up nine. So we didn’t do a good job in that area.”
One thing Sadler was happy with was his team’s overall defensive effort.
“If you hold Missouri to 56 points, you’ve got to be really, really excited as a basketball coach to know that your team put forth that type of effort against a team such as Missouri,” Sadler said.
Aside from a Missouri spurt late in the second half, Nebraska dictated the pace for most of the game. In most games this season, when Missouri couldn’t play at the fast pace it wanted to, a loss was the result.
“It was a frustrating night all around because we had some seniors that played real hard this year,” Keon Lawrence said. “I love them. I love playing with them, and I just feel bad for them just going out the way we went out.”
Nebraska will play Kansas at 6 p.m. tonight in the quarterfinals of the tournament.