LUBBOCK, Texas — All it takes is a split-second lapse, a loss of focus on defense that allows the opponent to score.
All teams experience those mistakes, but rarely does one commit them consistently for more than nine minutes.
Missouri found itself in that situation Wednesday night, allowing Texas Tech to dominate the opening minutes of the second half and secure an 87-76 win in a Big 12 Conference game at United Spirit Arena.
After the loss, the Tigers struggled to explain their defensive difficulties.
“We have to play collectively on the defensive end and that’s what we had been doing,” guard Jimmy McKinney said. “It was something that we knew we had to do, but we just weren’t doing it.”
Missouri coach Quin Snyder saw defensive trouble in the first half that became major obstacles in the second.
“They came out on fire, and I don’t think we guarded very well,” he said. “I didn’t think we defended real well in the first half either; we were just making some shots.”
The Red Raiders scored on 16 of their first 17 second-half possessions and made eight of their first nine shots. They scored 31 of the first 43 points of the half, turning a 44-41 Missouri halftime lead into a 72-56 Texas Tech edge.
Ross ignites Texas Tech run
Guard Ronald Ross, held scoreless in the first half, scored nine points in a 19-6 run to open the half. His layup in transition gave the Red Raiders a 60-50 lead with 13:41 left.
After cutting Texas Tech’s lead to 62-53, the Missouri defense became even looser. Beginning with an Emmett runner at 12:03, the Red Raiders scored eight points in 1:26. Guard Jarrius Jackson followed Emmett’s basket with a steal and two-handed slam at 11:51, followed by a free throw and a tip-in from forward Robert Tomaszek.
Emmett stole Missouri’s inbounds pass after the Tomaszek basket, scored and drew a foul. He made the free throw, resulting in a lightning-quick 72-56 Texas Tech lead with 10:37 to play.
Four of the baskets Texas Tech’s run to open the half were layups and the majority came from within 10 feet. Missouri’s defenders could not find a way to slow down the Red Raider offense.
“We weren’t closing down the paint,” Snyder said. “They’re a different offensive team, the way they play with a lot of back screens and motion. It puts a lot of pressure on you to communicate and to help each other defensively. There were just some times when we weren’t in help and guys got all the way to the rim.”
Missouri (15-11, 9-6) found it too difficult to contain a wide-open defense.
“They spread the offense out so much, we had to expand,” guard Jason Conley said. “We need didn’t play our best D. It seems to happen every eight or nine games and I guess this was our one game. I’m just happy it’s over with.”
Tigers made run, but came up short
A Texas Tech scoring drought of 3:50 gave Missouri a chance to respond. It did, with an 8-0 run that cut Texas Tech’s lead to 72-64. After the margin floated around eight points for several minutes, Missouri swingman Rickey Paulding hit two free throws, and Conley scored on a layup in transition to cut the lead to 78-74 with 3:07 left.
Missouri forward Travon Bryant’s blocks resulted in consecutive defensive stops, but Ross scored on a baseline layup and added a free throw to stretch the lead back to seven. Bryant fouled out on the play and the Tigers could not manage another rally.
Despite 24 points from center Arthur Johnson, the Tigers could not catch up.
“When you get yourself down 13, 15 on the road to a team like them, you have to do something spectacular to win,” Snyder said. “That means, basically, make everything and get some breaks. That wasn’t what happened.”
The loss snapped Missouri’s six-game winning streak, giving the Tigers their first loss since Feb. 7. Missouri allowed an average of 70 points in the stretch, making Wednesday’s collapse even more unexpected
“Our defense was great for the last couple games, even the last couple of weeks,” McKinney said. “We were getting progressively better on the defensive end, but tonight we took a step back.
“We don’t need those right now. We have to turn it up again on the defensive end.”
Tigers defense takes a step back
Guard Josh Kroenke said, despite the Tigers’ halftime lead, overconfidence was not an issue early in the second half.
“A.J. got on us pretty good at the half because the defense was not there,” Kroenke said. “There wasn’t the lock down defense we had been priding ourselves on.”
Despite pulling down 11 offensive rebounds, the Tigers produced four second-chance points. After Missouri held a 24-12 rebounding edge in the first half, the Red Raiders (20-9, 8-7) cut it to a 38-33 Missouri advantage by the end of the game.
Although Missouri has never appeared to be a great defensive team this season, the Tigers never could have expected the Red Raiders to dominate the first 10 minutes of the second half as they did.
Conley found one way to sum up the letdowns.
Said Conley: “It was a learning experience.”