Losses will never make a team feel great about itself, but Missouri’s loss to Texas on Tuesday showed the Tigers they are getting better.
“It was a good loss,” sophomore guard Jimmy McKinney said. “I won’t say it’s a great loss, but I will say it was a good loss because we’ve been pointing out (effort) on the defensive end and making the other team work for everything they want.
“That’s what we did and made them work for everything they want, but it so happened that they made some tough shots. And hey, I take my hat off to Texas, but we can’t dwell on this, we got to move on.”
Uncharacteristic free-throw misses from senior guard Rickey Paulding cost the Tigers in a 75-69 overtime loss to the Longhorns, but to the Tigers (7-7, 2-2 Big 12 Conference), the result matters little compared to the team’s effort.
The No. 16 Longhorns entered the game as the highest scoring team in the Big 12, averaging nearly 88 points. The Tigers’ defense played solidly and allowed 61 points through regulation.
P.J. Tucker, the Longhorns’ leading scorer, scored two points and was, for the most part, ineffective.
After the Longhorns jumped to a 9-4 lead in the first 3:36, Missouri coach Quin Snyder said the team addressed the slow defensive start and fixed the problem during the first media timeout. The Tigers held Texas (12-2, 3-0) to 13 points in the rest of the half.
“I thought we played well enough to win that game,” Snyder said “I felt like we really executed what we wanted to do. Texas is a very good club.”
The career-high 24 points from guard Royal Ivey was the only blemish on the Tigers’ defense, but Ivey’s points came on 17 shots.
Had senior center Arthur Johnson, who blocked a season-high six shots, not blocked Ivey’s final attempt in regulation to the hands of Texas forward Brian Boddicker for an open 3-pointer, the Tigers probably would have won. Johnson said bad breaks aside, close losses have and should continue to motivate the Tigers for a better effort.
“It just makes you work harder,” Johnson said. “A lot of those games that we lost was because of things we didn’t do, not playing with the passion and intensity. Last couple games, we’ve played with a little more intensity and a lot of passion, and it’s coming from practice. We’ve just got to keep practicing hard, and hopefully, we can pull some things together for the Big 12.”
In the Tigers’ losses in late December and early January, they struggled to produce a consistent effort. Inconsistent effort cost the Tigers against defending national champion Syracuse on Jan. 12, the most recent loss before Texas, but Snyder said he saw a different team against the Longhorns.
“I think in the Syracuse game, we played in some spurts; we played pretty good in the first half at times,” Snyder said. “I think we’re getting closer to knowing who we are. (Tuesday) we came out and played like we want to play and like the team we want to be.”
The loss to the Longhorns is the fifth time this season the Tigers have lost by six points or fewer. Although the losses have piled up for the Tigers, McKinney said all the troubles should make the Tigers better in the long run.
“It’s been rough,” he said. “It’s been hard, but you have to go down that road to be successful. As you can see, that’s the road we’re going down. If we keep fighting and keep getting back up, I feel like we can be successful.”