There are two kinds of losses.
There are the losses in which you improve and take positive signs from. Close losses to teams like No. 6 Oklahoma State or No. 1 Illinois are those kinds of losses.
Then there are losses that set you back, that leave you demoralized. Missouri’s 74-54 loss at Kansas State on Saturday was that kind of loss.
“We’re better in some ways, but we looked a little like we looked in November,” Missouri coach Quin Snyder said. “We were trying. We kept saying, ‘Oh, I’ll make the next one.’ But when it doesn’t go in, you have to try something else.”
The Tiger offense has struggled to some extent all season, but Missouri regressed dramatically on Saturday.
“We didn’t play well in any aspect of the game,” Snyder said.
The Tigers attempted 26 3-pointers, connecting on only five of them. The team went 21-for-55 from the field, in its worst offensive performance since a 57-55 loss to Houston on Nov. 21.
Perhaps more disconcerting than the missed shots is the extent to which the Tigers were simply outplayed.
The Wildcats (11-3), who lost close conference games to Nebraska and Texas Tech, dominated the Tigers. Kansas State outrebounded Missouri 41-33.
The loss left most of the Tigers hanging their heads in the locker room.
“We’ve got to show toughness all the time,” freshman guard Jason Horton said. “We showed it in spurts tonight, but we didn’t have any consistency. That’s our problem right now. We have no consistency. They were tougher. It showed on all the hustle plays and loose balls.”
Snyder reiterated dissatisfaction with the team’s level of consistency.
He also offered up an indictment of the defense, which had been the Tigers lone strength in several previous games.
“I thought our psyche was really fragile,” Snyder said. “We’ve been able to stay in games when we’ve missed shots by really digging in defensively. Tonight we didn’t have the same tenacity defensively. We just didn’t have it consistently and it really showed. We were a step slower.”
The Tigers and their coach were clearly dejected and tired as they boarded the team bus preparing to return from Manhattan, Kan.
“You want your guys to take it stronger,” Snyder said. “You got to be tougher to win on the road. You can’t look around for calls or for help. You’ve got to be tougher mentally, as far as knowing what gets you there, what works for your team.”
Missouri returns home to face Texas Tech on Wednesday. They have another home game against Nebraska on Jan. 22, before returning to the road on Jan. 26 to face Colorado.
Wednesday’s game will likely be a struggle to rediscover what has been working for the Tigers, tough defense and the ability to force the ball inside.
“They’re going to be tough,” Horton, a Texas native, said. “I know Bobby Knight. All of his teams play tough. We’ve got to come in with the mind-set that it’s going to be another tough game, and we just got to be ready to battle.”