Coach Mike Anderson and the Missouri Tigers just can’t seem to figure out how to beat Nebraska.
After the Tigers’ 56-51 loss at Nebraska on Saturday, they are 1-5 against the Cornhuskers with Anderson, including a loss in last year’s Big 12 Conference tournament that ended Missouri’s season.
During Anderson's first season at Missouri in 2006-2007, Nebraska finished just 6-10 in the Big 12 but beat the Tigers twice.
Several factors have led to Anderson's struggles against Nebraska. Last season, Missouri played shorthanded in a home loss to Nebraska after Anderson suspended five players for their roles in an altercation outside a Columbia nightclub.
But the biggest problem for Missouri against Nebraska has been the Cornhuskers' ability to dictate the tempo of the game.
"We had some guys in foul trouble so we couldn't get out and pressure them like we wanted to," Anderson said. "We could not change the tempo of the game, and when you don't make shots, that's what takes place."
Missouri came into Saturday's game averaging 85.3 points per game, fifth best in the country. But Nebraska slowed down the Tigers by repeatedly holding the ball for the full 35 seconds on offense and packing their half-court defense into the paint. The Tigers scored just 18 points in the first half.
"You have to credit them. It's what they do, they grind it out," Anderson said.
Senior forward Leo Lyons, the Tigers' second leading scorer, has had his share of trouble with Nebraska in his career. He came into the Big 12 tournament last season averaging 21.5 points over his previous four games, but shot just 2-for-12 in the Tigers' season-ending loss to Nebraska.
On Saturday, Lyons was limited to four minutes in the first half because of foul trouble and didn't score.
On one play in the first half, Lyons missed a layup. He grabbed his own rebound, but was called for a charge. It was just that kind of game.
Lyons was more aggressive in the second half, scoring 12 points. But after trailing by as many as 18, Missouri just didn't have enough time to catch up.
"We came out real flat. No energy. Wasn't playing defense," Lyons said.
Lyons has been at Missouri a year longer than Anderson. During his freshman year, Missouri lost to Nebraska twice, including in the Big 12 tournament.
"Why we clash so hard is probably because they want to play so slow, and they try to play a lot of half-court basketball," Lyons said. "We're not very good at playing slow."
Lyons will have at least one more chance to make some good memories against the Cornhuskers. Nebraska travels to Mizzou Arena on Valentine's Day.