COLLEGE STATION, Texas –Yet again, Missouri failed to play a solid 40 minutes, and the Tigers lost their fourth straight.
The unfamiliar surroundings of an opposing court proved too ominous for the Tigers, and Texas A&M handed them a 91-63 beating. The loss dropped Missouri to 10-12 and 2-7 in the Big 12 Conference. While crushing to Missouri’s season, the game moved Texas A&M one step closer to the NCAA tournament.
Missouri’s offense and defense crumbled in the second half. A team that looked poised on defense in the first half looked lost in the second half, and no one was there to help when help was needed. Missouri’s shot selection was good throughout, but it’s hard to take a shot when players keep turning the ball over.
Missouri coach Quin Snyder blamed the second-half stumble on the team’s immaturity.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to grow up,” Snyder said. “We’re playing a lot of times out there with a junior college team with these freshman and sophomores. That’s not an excuse, that’s just, as the season goes on, we’ve got to learn from some of these things.”
The Tigers came out flat at the beginning of the game, allowing Texas A&M to jump to an 18-9 lead. Missouri’s first half was saved by something that’s plagued the team all season. Midway through the period, the Tigers switched to a zone defense that resulted in a few quick buckets.
The first came from freshman forward Marshall Brown. With 8:30 left in the period, Brown knocked away an Aggie pass while setting a trap at half court. The ball bounced into the open court and Brown scooped it up and finished with an uncontested, one-handed dunk.
On the two subsequent Texas A&M possessions, Missouri again found success trapping. Both resulted in turnovers the Tigers turned into easy points. The first was a dunk by Thomas Gardner. The second was another dunk by Brown. The 6-0 run tied the score at 25 with 7:13 left in the half.
“In the first half, we came out and did all the right things coach told us to,” Brown said. “Come out and rebound, defend, play good offense.”
The Tigers finished the first half leading 35-34 on the strength of freshman point Jason Horton’s shooting. He hit was 3-of-3 from behind the 3-point line and had 11 points. The rest of the team also shot well, hitting 50 percent and going 6-of-6 from the free-throw line.
The beginning of the second half mirrored the first for Missouri. The only difference was that sophomore forward Linas Kleiza stepped onto the court for the first time. Kleiza was no help to the Tigers as they allowed the Aggies to jump out to a 60-49 lead.
Missouri senior Jason Conley said this is a problem the Tigers have struggled with all season.
“This thing has been going on all year,” Conley said. “In the first half we’ve been strong.”
The Aggies wouldn’t be stopped, hitting 4-of-6 from behind the arc and 9-of-16 overall in the first eight minutes of the half. Missouri continued to shoot well, but it wasn’t enough to hang with Texas A&M.
The game got further out of hand as time wound down. It seemed like nothing the Tigers did worked. Texas A&M players were hitting almost impossible shots, even with hands in their faces. Every Missouri shot, no matter how open, missed.
Horton said the team’s struggles were entirely mental, and there is a solution to the problem.
“You’ve got the whole pre-game to get focused and stuff like that,” Horton said. “At the half time you come out and you’re not really loose and stretched, so we’ve just got to start getting ourselves loose at halftime.”