Almost winning a game at Allen Fieldhouse may be considered an accomplishment, especially for a team that hasn’t won there since 1999. And coming within three points of upsetting the No. 5 team in the country could be something to be proud of for a team that hasn’t won a conference game.
But Missouri coach Mike Anderson wouldn’t agree.
“There’s no moral victories,” Anderson said.
Matt Lawrence concurred.
“I know that we went in huge underdogs, and to come in to Allen Fieldhouse is and play the kind of basketball that we haven’t played in the last few games is encouraging,” said Lawrence, who scored 19 points. “We still lost, so we can’t look at this as a moral victory. We are tired of taking moral victories. We need to start winning these games.”
After Missouri lost 80-77 to Kansas, members of the Tigers didn’t walk off the floor like they had won anything, imagined or not. Like they have at the end of three other close games this season, they staggered off the floor a beaten team. And once again, they were forced to watch jubilant opponents celebrate at their expense.
But such celebrations don’t happen after blowouts. They happen after teams barely win, scoring the decisive points or making the biggest stops in the last moments of the game. For a team that has played 17 games, Missouri has experienced this a lot.
Against Illinois on Dec. 19, Stefhon Hannah was unable to take a possible game-tying 3-pointer, leading to a 73-70 defeat. Then, on consecutive Saturdays at Mizzou Arena, Missouri (11-6, 0-4 Big 12) was unable to take advantage of opportunities against Iowa State and Kansas State, losing by a combined five points.
In most of those games, Missouri made errors that cost them games. Against the Cyclones, the Tigers were unable to hold on to the basketball in the final seconds. A week later, the Wildcats outrebounded Missouri by 24. In Lawrence on Monday, the Tigers had three possessions with a five-point lead and less than nine minutes remaining. Each time, they didn’t score.
“We gotta make winning plays,” Anderson said. “We didn’t make winning plays (Monday). That’s the difference between winning and losing. It’s a thin line, especially on the road. We just gotta take it to the next level and get over that hump.”
As Anderson would say, the “winning play” would have been making shots with that five-point lead. In two of those three possessions, Hannah took shots with less than 10 seconds gone from the shot clock.
“I think we jacked it up there a couple times, you know, trying to put them away,” Lawrence said. “I think if we had kept doing what we had done in the first half and parts of the second half, I think we could have extended it a little at a time and just won the game.”
Something else the Tigers could have done is stop Sherron Collins. A freshman, Collins scored 23 points in his first game against Missouri, with 15 of them coming in the second half. It was his 3-pointer from the corner with 1:44 left that gave Kansas a four-point lead, provoking the crowd at Allen Fieldhouse to cheer as loud as it did all night.
“That’s the Sherron that we recruited,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “It takes time for guys to get comfortable, and this was a big game for him going up against Hannah. As good as Hannah was, as good as Lawrence was, and as good as Brown was, Sherron was the man tonight.”
Missouri now has a week to try to figure out how to win the close games as well as how to figure out how to avoid the toughest kind of losses. And if it doesn’t, frustrating nights like the one in Lawrence could be repeated.
SELLOUTS: The Missouri Department of Athletics announced on Tuesday that the Jan. 27 game against Texas Tech and the Feb. 10 game against Kansas have both sold out. These two games are the first two of the season to be called sell-outs.
Previously, the only game to draw more than 10,000 fans was the Jan. 6 contest with Iowa State. That game attracted 10,142 fans to Mizzou Arena, which has a capacity of 15,061.