COLUMBIA — Phil Pressey bit his bottom lip and looked away from his coach.
Frank Haith was fuming, motioning toward the clock, his arms flailing as he screamed at his point guard. There were 12.6 seconds remaining in the game, plenty of time to get a better shot, plenty of time to cut the Tigers' three-point deficit.
Instead, Pressey shot a quick 3-pointer— an air ball — and 12.6 seconds later, the Missouri men's basketball team lost 64-62 on the road to Tennessee.
It was the ninth loss of the season, the eighth on the road, the seventh against a Southeastern Conference opponent, and a similar story for the Tigers.
Pressey’s struggles in late game situations this season have been well documented. He missed key 3-pointers in the final seconds in losses against UCLA and LSU, and turned the ball over in the final seconds against Texas A&M and Arkansas.
But the air ball 3-pointer is not the only reason why the Tigers suffered their ninth loss of the season. The Volunteers dominated Missouri on the glass, out-rebounding the Tigers 45 to 32. Missouri also shot 41.4 percent in the game, and only 23.5 percent from behind the 3-point line.
"They were just tougher than us, point-blank," Laurence Bowers told the Associated Press following the game.
Bowers had a game-high 20 points, but got in to foul trouble early on. He dominated the game early in the first half by scoring a quick nine points, but picked up two fouls that forced Haith to sit his leading scorer for the rest of the half after only six minutes of play. Keion Bell had only seven points in the game, while Alex Oriakhi and Jabari Brown contributed only six.
The game was tied at the half, but Missouri was winning by eight points with 10:07 left in the game until Tennessee went on an 18-3 run to flip the score.
Tennessee leading scorer Jordan McRae had a team-high 15 points, while forward Jarnell Stokes dominated Missouri in the paint with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
“Jarnell Stokes, he wanted the ball more than we did," Bowers said to the AP.
If the Tigers had won this game, they would have been the third seed in the Southeastern Conference Tournament next week in Nashville, Tenn., and received a double-bye.
Instead, the Tigers will have to settle for the sixth seed, meaning that they will play at 9 p.m. Thursday against the winner of the Auburn and Texas A&M game on Wednesday.
As for Pressey’s late game struggles, Missouri will have a very short window to fix the season long issue.
Because, starting now, the games are single elimination.