COLUMBIA — The MU men’s basketball team jumped out to a 53-23 halftime lead against the Fordham Rams during its 79-55 victory on Tuesday night in the O’Reilly Auto Parts College Basketball Experience Classic.
But as impressive as the Tigers looked in the first half of the game, they looked equally mediocre in the second half.
Fordham outscored MU 32-26 in the second half. The Tigers committed 11 turnovers in the half compared to just three in the first 20 minutes of play.
Coach Mike Anderson said it is difficult for a team to continue playing at the level the Tigers played at in the first half, but he was not making excuses for how the Tigers performed in the second half.
“We started playing not to lose,” Anderson said. “We started playing too careful, like you’re protecting a lead. That can’t be us.”
Forward DeMarre Carroll said that MU’s struggles in the second half came about because the team stopped attacking the basket, something that does not fit with the team’s style.
Carroll also said that MU has not really been used to having 30-point halftime leads, but Anderson is hoping to teach the team how to perform in those situations.
“Coach said he needs to teach us how to go on and step on someone’s neck when we up by 30,” Carroll said.
In addition to the turnovers, MU’s three-point shooting contributed to the difference between one half and the other. The Tigers made six of their 11 three-point attempts in the first half. But the team did not make any of its five second-half attempts from beyond the arc.
Despite the poor second half for MU, Carroll shined for the second consecutive night in a Tiger uniform. He followed up his impressive 23-point, eight-rebound regular season debut against Central Michigan Monday with 16 points and eight rebounds against Fordham Tuesday. For his performances in the those two games Carroll was named the MVP of the Columbia Regional of the CBE Classic.
“It’s nice,” Carroll said of being named MVP. “But it’s not a big honor to me because I just want to make it to the (NCAA) tournament and I want to win. But I’d like to give credit to my teammates because without them I wouldn’t have got that trophy.”
Sophomore guard JT Tiller was another bright spot for MU. He came off the bench to notch a career-high 13 points in only 16 minutes of play. His previous career high was 12, which he accomplished on two occasions last season.
“(It’s) not really any different than any other night,” Tiller said of his personal achievement. “I’m glad I can participate and help my team get the win.”
The second half struggles should not take away from how well MU played in the first half, and how well the team played on defense throughout the game. The Tigers’ defense only allowed 16 field goals for the game and held Fordham to 30.2 percent shooting from the field. Fordham only made five of those field goals in the first half, something Anderson was extremely proud of.
“If I could ball that (first-half performance) up, I’d be a rich, rich dude,” Anderson said.
With the victory MU advances to the championship rounds of the O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic in Kansas City on November 19 and 20. On November 19 the Tigers will play the winner of the East Lansing Regional game between No. 12 Michigan State and Louisiana-Monroe, which will be played at 6 p.m. Wednesday.