If the defense failed the Tigers, it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
Missouri tried about everything on the defensive end of the court in its 57-55 loss to Houston on Wednesday in Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium.
After struggling to contain Creighton on Tuesday, Missouri tried a number of new defensive looks to confuse the Cougars. Ultimately, it was the Tigers’ conventional defensive scheme that shut down the Cougars’ offense. But even while holding Houston to 22 points in the second half, the Tigers came up short of the win.
“I thought we were really conscious of not relying too much on the jump shot,” MU coach Quin Snyder said. “We were defending, and as a result we were in the game.”
The Tigers have been primarily a man-to-man defensive team, but switched briefly from that style with a 2-3 zone in an attempt to slow Creighton in a 78-54 loss Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Snyder and the Tigers got experimental again, running a half-court trap and the zone. Neither slowed the Cougars.
Houston beat the trap to go on a 16-5 run with 10 minutes to go in the first half, and further victimized the zone for ten points in five minutes. Missouri trailed 35-28 by halftime.
“I thought our boys did a good job of controlling the tempo of the game,” Houston coach Tom Penders said. “We knew this (Missouri) team would be fired up after their loss last night, and I was proud we were able to stay on top of the game.”
The Tigers returned to man-to-man in the second half, and played their way back into the game, cutting the Houston lead to two after trailing by as many as nine.
Junior center Jeffery Ferguson revitalized the Tigers, recording three blocks on one Houston possession. The Tigers forced three consecutive Houston turnovers and kept the Cougars from scoring for a five-minute span during the second half.
But Missouri’s resurgent defense could not compensate for its offensive troubles. The Tigers shot only 32.2 percent from the field and turned the ball over 14 times.
“When shots aren’t falling, you have to try to control the things you can control,” Sophomore guard Thomas Gardner said. “We can control how hard we play, and we can control how we play with each other. We did that. The ball just didn’t go in for us.”
The most costly turnover came with 16.2 seconds left, when junior center Kevin Young traveled on a layup that would have tied the game. Perhaps, the most painful miss followed when sophomore forward Linas Kleiza couldn’t make another would-be tying basket as time expired.
“It was a tough loss,” Snyder said. “I’m sorry we won’t have a win to be thankful for tomorrow.”