J.T. Tiller’s turnover seemed to sum up the game for the Tigers.
With 15 seconds left and Missouri down by two to Oklahoma, Tiller deflected an inbounds pass giving the Tigers a chance to win the game. He recovered the ball among three defenders, but in his attempt he ended off-balance. Tiller began falling to the ground, and was called for a travel. The play proved to be the end of the Tigers last-minute rally in their 66-61 loss at Oklahoma.
“We thought we were going to win the game, and J.T. made a big play for us, and after that I had in my mind that we were going to win,” Missouri forward Laurence Bowers said. “When that travel was called, there was nothing we could do about it, and that was the game.”
Much like that turnover, for the majority of the game Missouri (14-4, 2-1) seemed destined to win. From the opening tip, the Tigers were in control. They forced Oklahoma (11-6, 2-1) into seven turnovers and held a 10-0 lead. The Sooners looked confused in the first half and couldn’t seem to break Missouri’s pressure defense.
However, the Tigers opened the second half with three straight turnovers, allowing Oklahoma to gain some confidence. Missouri was able to hold a two-point lead for most of the half. Then, the breaking point came. With more than six minutes left. Sooners guard Willie Warren stole the ball, making a layup and free throw to give Oklahoma a one-point lead.
“We had to start the second half a lot better than we did,” Bowers said. “We had three straight turnovers, the way we started wasn’t the way we finished.
Missouri began to fall helplessly like Tiller, slowly turning the game over to Oklahoma. Oklahoma guard Cade Davis made five straight points, and extended the lead to six. The Sooners began to frustrate the Tigers with their zone defense, forcing Missouri to shoot jump shots and eliminating the penetration. Missouri shot just 35 percent for the game and only made five 3-point shots. Bowers said the poor shooting made the comeback more difficult.
“I mean there are going to be days when you don’t shoot the ball well. I think today was one of those days,” Bowers said. “There were times in the game where we made stops, but we just couldn’t put the ball in the hole.”
Statistically it seemed like Missouri should have won the game. It forced 20 turnovers and had 10 steals. For most of the season, when the Tigers have forced that many turnovers, it usually results in a victory. However, Missouri coach Mike Anderson said the reason the team lost was because it didn’t capitalize on Oklahoma’s mistakes.
“I think when you have opportunities on the road, you got to seize that moment. Momentum, and that’s what its called,” Anderson said. “On the road that’s tough, it’s a different psyche for the guys.”
The loss against Oklahoma ended Missouri’s nine-game winning streak, and its chance for a 3-0 start in the Big 12, which would have been the best start for Missouri since 2000-01. Bowers, who led the team with his first career double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, said the loss was especially frustrating because Missouri led most of the game.
“It’s always frustrating, not only because we had the lead, but because we don’t like to lose,” Bowers said. “Everybody on the team is pissed off about the loss. Just the fact that we were in the game made it that much worse.”
Missouri will now have a week off after its two-game road trip. The team will play again Saturday against Nebraska at Mizzou Arena. Bowers said the fact that the Tigers split the road trip has given them confidence they didn’t have before.
“We’ve grown a lot,” Bowers said. “Coach Anderson always says that if you can split on the road you’ll be OK. And we found we can do that on the road. Now we just have to learn to finish.”