Not even a dramatic change in the lineup could change the growing, and certainly disconcerting, trends for Missouri.
For the first time this season, forward Marshall Brown was out of the starting five, replaced by Darryl Butterfield. Neither player saw the change when coach Mike Anderson wrote down the starting lineups before the game. When the starters were introduced to the crowd, Brown and Butterfield were both confused when Butterfield’s name came over the loudspeaker.
“I didn’t know I was doing it at first until they called my name over the announcements,” Butterfield said. “I was like, ‘Whoa.’ It felt pretty good. I was confident.”
Brown’s frustrations, though, were just beginning.
Anderson said after the game that he changed the lineup because Brown wasn’t rebounding enough. Rebounding has been a problem all season for the Tigers, and Anderson viewed Butterfield as a better option to start the game.
Despite using the lineup change as motivation to pull down four rebounds in the first half, Brown’s efforts weren’t enough to keep Missouri from losing its sixth conference game.
Brown didn’t play the last 4:12 of the game, and Missouri struggled down the stretch yet again in a losing effort. The junior forward has been asked ad nauseam since Big 12 play began why this Tigers team can’t seem to close out games consistently.
“When it comes down to it, we just have to be tough,” Brown said. “We just didn’t get it done. I’ve seen this happen before. As a leader I feel like I let my team down today. I just didn’t have it today. I was missing shots and free throws.”
Saturday’s game was another example of a come-from-ahead loss by Missouri. Nebraska entered Saturday’s game after trailing at home against Kansas by as many as 33 points on Monday. Cornhuskers’ coach Doc Sadler said he was concerned about his team getting “hit in the mouth” again by Missouri.
In a way, the Tigers did just that by taking an early nine-point lead. But Missouri struggled to play with a lead against Iowa State and Kansas earlier this season, and Saturday was no different.
“I think sometimes when we get leads we start getting relaxed,” Brown said. “All it takes is a couple of buckets, and they’re right back into the game. When we get leads that’s when we really have to start playing our best basketball.”
There was an interesting sway to Brown’s comments after the game, though. When he talked about Missouri getting a big lead, he said sometimes the team relaxed. When he spoke about how the team performs in close and late situations, he said the team was tense.
Part of that comes from the Tigers lacking experience winning consistently at the college level. The last three years of the Quin Snyder era were marred with losses. Now, the team has to learn quickly how to win close games to keep its hopes of a postseason tournament bid alive.
“That’s the thing we’re finding out right now,” Anderson said. “We’ve just got to get to the point where they go ahead and make plays. That’s the key. It’s the mind-set. I think more than anything else it’s the mind-set.”