COLUMBIA — Coming into Tuesday night's game agianst Illinois, Missouri guard Zaire Taylor said that playing a rivalry game on national TV was a "dream come true" for the Tigers.
It turned out to be a nightmare.
The No. 25 Tigers shots didn't fall. The Fighting Illini couldn't miss. The result was a 75-59 loss for the Tigers, their ninth straight loss to Illinois in the Braggin' Rights Game.
I wanted so (much) more as a senior going out to end the streak," Tigers senior forward DeMarre Carroll said.
Illinois guard Demetri McCamey came out to start the game and made his first five shots, including three three-pointers, to put Illinois up 20-9.
Illinois' early run deflated the Tigers.
"I think they hit a lot of shots at the beginning and we were playing on our heals the whole game," said Missouri senior forward Leo Lyons, who led the Tigers with 22 points.
Missouri came into the game full of confidence after a 9-1 start and the team's first appearance in the AP Top 25 in nearly five years. After the lopsided loss to Illinois, the Tigers' spot in the rankings is likely to last only one week.
The Tigers lost the Braggin' Rights game by three points two years ago and by one point last season. Coming into Tuesday's game, they thought this was their year to end the losing streak.
"I think it's definitely the best chance that we had coming into the game. We had a lot of wins and a lot of positive things happening with our team," Lyons said. "It just didn't work out today."
Illinois put the game out of reach early, leading 40-22 at the half. The Fighting Illini shot 55 percent in the first half compared to just 30 percent by Missouri. Illinois is now 11-1 and has wins over Missouri and at Vanderbilt on its resume.
During their first 10 games, the Tigers strengths were bench scoring, sharing the ball without turning it over and forcing opponent turnovers. On Tuesday, all of those things became weaknesses for Missouri.
Missouri's bench scored 11 points. The Tigers had just 11 assists and 12 turnovers. In the decisive first half, Missouri had just one steal.
"It just seemed like it was Murphy's Law, what could go wrong did go wrong for us," Missouri coach Mike Anderson said.
Four of Missouri's five regular contributors off the bench are newcomers to Missouri, and they struggled to adjust to playing their first game in front of a large crowd. Missouri's largest home crowd of the season was 8,517 on Dec. 13 against Murray State. There were 19,586 people at the Braggin' Rights game.
"Typically I can normally get somebody on that bench that can come and give us a big lift," Anderson said. "But as you can see, we bring a lot of young guys off the bench."
Once they found themselves in a hole, the Tigers never responded with a run.
"We actually looked like a young basketball team. You could see it," Anderson said. "It was like they punched us, and we didn't really punch back."
The Tigers will have to wallow in the disappointment of yet another loss the Illinois over the holiday. Missouri's first chance to rebound comes Saturday against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. The Tigers will have to wait until conference play for their next test against a quality opponent.
"We are going to see a lot of teams that are just as good or better," Anderson said. "I know we can get better."