ST. LOUIS — It again came down to the final play and Missouri again fumbled the ball away before it could shoot it. In what is becoming familiar fashion, Missouri lost 59-58 to Illinois in the annual Braggin’ Rights game Saturday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Down by one, Missouri had two chances to end the game with a shot.
With less than 10 seconds left, Stefhon Hannah misfired a pass to DeMarre Carroll, giving the ball back to Illinois. In last year’s contest, Hannah had failed to get off a 3-point attempt before time ran out in a 73-70 loss to the Illini.
Saturday, the Tigers had one more chance after Chester Frazier, who the Tigers fouled after he retrieved Hannah’s pass, missed both free throws. But this time, it was Keon Lawrence who mishandled the ball.
The usually upbeat guard fell on the court and covered his face as the ball rolled out of bounds and Missouri dropped its eighth straight game to Illinois.
“I just lost the ball, that’s what happened,” Lawrence said. “I came off a screen and I just lost the ball. I slipped, the slip turned into a loss, I lost the ball.”
Illinois now holds a 19-8 record against Missouri since the Braggin’ Rights series began in 1980.
“Illinois did a good job, but I don’t think going down the stretch it was what Illinois did, I think it is what we did to ourselves,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. “I really, really do. I think we had some opportunities, but I’ll take the blame.”
Missouri kept it close despite starting slow in each half.
Illinois jumped to a 9-0 lead before Leo Lyons scored a short jumper four and a half minutes in. Missouri then went on a 16-4 run and went into the half down 32-31.
It was a nearly identical second half. Illinois started off with seven straight points and an 11-2 run, but Missouri fought back and led for much of the final minutes.
As Missouri fans have often seen, though, the Tigers ended up on the losing end.
Missouri controlled the momentum late but faltered after top scorer forward Leo Lyons fouled out.
With 1:34 left and a 58-56 lead, Lyons reached in on Illinois’ Shaun Pruitt and was called for a foul. With Lyons out, Pruitt hit one-of-two free throws and then scored the winning layup one minute later after Illinois players tipped the ball under the basket about four times.
“They got a big, big rebound,” Anderson said. “The Pruitt kid got like two or three rebounds down the stretch after Leo fouled out.”
Before fouling out, Lyons filled in the scoring gap left by Carroll. The Tigers’ leading scorer and rebounder this season, Carroll has been hindered by an ankle injury he suffered Dec. 1 at Cal. Carroll ended up with 10 rebounds, above his average, but only scored eight points on 2-of-10 shooting.
Carroll declined to comment on his ankle after the game. Lyons finished with 15 points
Hannah, Missouri’s second leading scorer and the only Missouri player to score in double digits last season, also struggled to find his shot. His first points of the game didn’t come until a 3-pointer near the end of the first half. Before that, he air-balled one 3-point attempt and was badly off line on another. He finished the game with eight points on 2-for-12 shooting.
Sophomore guard J.T. Tiller came off the bench and was the catalyst to Missouri’s comebacks after the slow starts to the halves. He had two steals in the game and was disruptive all night on defense. His 10 points was the second best of the team, but not enough to match Illinois, which had three players score in double digits.