For five players on the Missouri men’s basketball team, Saturday’s game at Purdue provided a new experience: a loss in a Division-I basketball game.
Playing in its black road uniforms for the first time this season, Missouri (9-1) fell to the Boilermakers 79-62.
Junior transfer Stefhon Hannah already doesn’t like the feeling of losing at this level.
“It doesn’t feel good at all,” Hannah said. “It’s our first loss. It hurts.”
But at the same time, Hannah said that might not be such a bad thing for a team filled with newcomers. Because of the team’s fast start, Hannah said the team has been taking it easy at times during games.
“This game helped us a lot. It motivated us,” Hannah said. “A 9-0 start, we were slacking. This loss brought us back down to earth.”
Hannah said the mood in the locker room after the game quickly changed from disappointment to anxiety.
“At first, people were down,” Hannah said. “But then, people came in the locker room, and we said, ‘Hey, it isn’t over.’ It’s just one loss. We got a long season to go.
“We’re more anxious to play a game now than we have been all season. We just want to get back out there and practice right now and play another game. (Sophomore guard) Mike (Anderson Jr.) said he wishes we had a game tomorrow.”
In addition to being the team’s first loss, it was also its first road game. Coach Mike Anderson said the team’s lack of experience playing away from home hurt the Tigers on Saturday, but that he can learn more from the team’s road games than he can at other time during the season.
“I think you find out more about the toughness of your team,” Anderson said. “The only way you’re going to learn about playing on the road is to get out there and do it.”
Before traveling to West Lafayette, Ind., to face Purdue, Anderson emphasized the importance of shooting the ball well on offense and playing tough defense.
On Saturday, the Tigers did neither. While the Tigers shot 38.3 percent, their defense allowed Purdue (8-1) to shoot 55.8 percent from the field.
“On defense, we didn’t have that fight in us,” Hannah said. “Our defense wasn’t there. When we stopped hitting shots, we stopped playing defense.”
It was Purdue’s low-post game that gave Missouri’s defense the most trouble. Purdue, which totaled 44 points in the paint, was led by forward Carl Landry’s 23 points on 7-of-8 shooting. He had 12 rebounds. One reason the Boilermakers were able to get so many easy looks was their 40-31 rebounding advantage.
“We have to play harder,” Hannah said. “We knew coming in this game was going to be a dogfight. We weren’t aggressive enough on the boards.”
Missouri hung with Purdue for most of the first half. It closed out the half on an 8-1 run to tie the game at 39 before taking the lead in the second half. But the Boilermakers responded with a 14-0 run to take a 15-point lead, all but ensuring the Tigers of their first loss. During the run, which was spread out over nearly eight minutes, the Tigers turned the ball over five times and twice missed the front ends of 1-and-1 situations from the free-throw line.
“The turnovers factored a lot,” Hannah said. “That and not making any shots. We were getting shots; we just couldn’t hit them. It seemed like as a team, we were letting the refs get in our heads. Everybody was worried a lot about the refs instead of just playing.”
The Boilermakers had a 31-19 edge in free-throw attempts. Missouri made 11 of its 19 attempts.
“You know, it’s our first road game,” Hannah said. “We got the jitters out. Now we know what to expect. We have to bounce back.”
Missouri has a nine-day break before taking on Illinois in St. Louis on Dec. 19 in the Busch Braggin’ Rights Game.