Understand Kansas Jayhawks might not be concerned if they trail Missouri at halftime on Saturday.
Opponents have embarrassed the Tigers in the second half of games this past month. Since Missouri started its four-game losing streak Oct. 16 against Texas, the Tigers have seen leads slip away and deficits grow in miserable second-half performances.
Missouri started the season as a strong third quarter team, but has fallen apart in Big 12 Conference play. Opponents have outscored the Tigers 69-9 in the second half in their last four games, and have earned a 45-9 advantage over Missouri in the fourth quarter.
“I have not had this second-half problem,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “I’ve never been associated with this since I’ve been coaching. I think for anybody, looking at how we play the first half and the second half it’s pretty alarming.”
Missouri has shown it can play in the first half, jumping out to a 17-point lead Oct. 23 against Oklahoma State and a 21-point lead Nov. 6 against Kansas State. Impressive scoring drives late in the first half by the Cowboys and the Wildcats, though, foreshadowed lopsided second halves that saw the Tigers let double-digit leads vanish.
“You look at those halves and we’re not playing as well as we should be,” Pinkel said.
In addition to those losses, Missouri blew another double-digit lead Sept. 9 against Troy. After running out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, Missouri seemed to fall apart, and Troy took a 17-14 lead into halftime that it would not relinquish.
The Tigers still have a chance to win the Big 12 North Division and qualify for a bowl game if they can refrain from disappearing for part of the game Saturday and Nov. 27 against Iowa State.
“It’s pretty remarkable,” Pinkel said. “I think it’s just one of those years that things are shaking out like they are. It’s a crazy year in our division.”
No team in the North has a winning record in conference play, and five out of the six teams in the South have winning conference records. This lopsided competition puts Iowa State, with a 3-3 conference record, in first place in the North. The Cyclones were considered the weakest team in the North before the season started.
Missouri players have freely admitted they must overcome the difficulties they have had hanging onto leads.
Linebacker Hank Sweat said it has become a different situation mentally if the Tigers grab an early lead.
“There is more of an awareness,” Sweat said. “This thing has happened to us in the past, so we’re focusing on getting it done now.”
Pinkel said the team heightens its intensity and focuses on executing better at the end of practice to simulate fourth-quarter situations, but so far it has not shown in games.
Sweat said it will require more than simulating late-game situations in practice.
“It’s just going to be determination on our part,” he said. “If we’re going into the half with a lead, we have to go ahead and keep it.”