Missouri basketball coach Quin Snyder said he thought his team gave away the game when Missouri lost 78-68 to Oklahoma State on Tuesday.
The Tigers collapsed in the final six minutes, allowing the Cowboys to score 10 straight points after leading Oklahoma State for much of the second half.
That the unranked Tigers kept it close against No. 6 Oklahoma State says much about the team’s gutsy play.
The game was Missouri’s first on the road and Stillwater, Okla., is widely regarded as one of the toughest places to play in the country.
“We’re working hard to get better and take the coaching to heart,” sophomore Linas Kleiza said. “This is not the same team that got blown out by Creighton. We know we have to work harder and get better every game.”
The Tigers (9-6, 1-1 in the Big 12 Conference) also showed their toughness in a 62-59 victory against Iowa State on Jan. 8.
“In this league, you have to come with it every single day,” junior guard Jimmy McKinney said. “We know that. There’s no letdowns. Any team can bury you by 20 or 30 points, so you have to bring it. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
When Missouri plays at Kansas State (10-3, 0-2) on Saturday, they will face a team that has showed similar courage and improvement.
The Wildcats (10-3) are out to their best record in six years. The Wildcats also overcame similar setbacks. They have played tough close games, but have been on the losing end recently.
The Wildcats lost to Texas Tech 79-76 on a last-second 3-pointer by Tech’s Curtis Marshall. They lost to Nebraska 95-85 in double overtime on Jan. 8.
“We’ve let some get away from us and that’s disappointing,” Kansas State coach Jim Wooldridge said. “But I think there’s opportunity in front of us. If we can improve in practice and games, it lends itself to building blocks as you move down the road. We understand how we win and we got to get better at that.”
Like Missouri, Kansas State has won by buckling down on defense and improving offensively with every game.
Wooldridge said he thought Missouri would be a good challenge because of the team’s similar development.
“They are another team that’s improving from week to week,” Wooldridge said. “They’ve got some shot makers. Kleiza is a playmaker and they have some athleticism. They are a really tough team. I guess we’ll see what happens.”