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Free-throw problems lead to loss for Tigers

Thursday, November 20, 2008 | 3:33 p.m. CST; updated 10:18 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Missouri guard J.T. Tiller defends against Xavier's Dante Jackson in Thursday's game at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament. Tiller grabbed six steals for Missouri, but the Tigers struggled at the free-throw line and lost.

On Thursday against Xavier, the Missouri men's basketball team caught a bad case of the bricks, a contagious free-throw shooting disease.

The Tigers shot 15-for-31 from the foul line in their 75-71 loss to the Musketeers in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tip-off.

"The free-throw line, it's so important, and we talk about it all the time," Missouri coach Mike Anderson said in a radio interview after the game. "It gets mental sometimes, and sometimes it gets contagious, to tell you the truth."

Xavier freshman guard Terrell Holloway made 10 free throws in the final six minutes. Missouri made just seven in the entire second half, on 20 attempts.

"I never thought we would shoot free throws that bad," Anderson said. "The free-throw line came back to really, really bite us."

Senior forward DeMarre Carroll, who was 3-for-7 from the foul line, said that the basketball used in Thursday's game was a different brand than the team is accustomed to using. Missouri usually plays with Nike basketballs, but Carroll said he didn't want to make any excuses.

The bad performance at the free-throw line spoiled an impressive defensive performance by the Tigers. Missouri recorded 16 steals in the game. Xavier, which advanced to the Elite Eight last season, escaped with a victory despite recording only 11 assists compared to 22 turnovers.

"I thought we outplayed them in a lot of different areas," Anderson said. "I thought our defense created tempo, the tempo we wanted."

The game became a free-throw shooting competition in the second half, with the teams combining to shoot 36 free throws in the last 10 minutes. Missouri lost that competition badly.

The Tigers led for the majority of the second half, but Carroll missed two free throws with 1:38 remaining. Xavier took the lead for good seconds later, 71-70 on two made free throws by Holloway.

Missouri had the ball trailing by a point with the clock winding down, but instead of attacking the basket, the Tigers opted for a three-point attempt by freshman Marcus Denmon. The shot was short, and Xavier won. But Anderson said he wasn't upset with the shot selection.

"We had a great look at that three-point shot that could have put us up two, and I told him I thought it was a great, great shot going down the stretch," Anderson said.

Carroll led Missouri in scoring with 17 points, 15 of which came in the second half. Junior guard J.T. Tiller had an excellent all-around game. He tallied 13 points, five rebounds, five assists and tied a tournament record with six steals. Tiller fouled out with over four minutes left when he was called for a blocking foul while trying to take a charge.

"When they got that block on him for that fifth foul, I think that really went into their favor," Anderson said. "I thought J.T. was giving us aggressiveness."

The Tigers, who are now 2-1 on the season, will be back in action at 10 a.m. Friday against Fairfield. That game can be seen on Espn360.com.


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