The Missouri men’s basketball team will have to wait until next year to end its losing streak in nonconference road games.
The Tigers lost to the Mississippi State Bulldogs 87-75 on Sunday afternoon in Starkville, Miss. Missouri had a chance to seize control when the game was tied at 62, but failed to do so. That has been a trend for the Tigers in road games this season.
“Just like all year in 2007, we’re almost there,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. “I just thought our basketball IQ kind of escaped us coming down the stretch. I think they played with a lot more energy than we did.”
Missouri had to battle back from a 57-47 deficit with 12:16 left to play. Once the score was tied, the Tigers played as if they were still trailing by 10. They launched several quick, perimeter shots instead of trying to wear Mississippi State down for easier opportunities.
“Things were working for us to get back in the game, but when you’re back in it, you don’t want to keep just chucking it up,” junior guard Matt Lawrence said. “We’ve got big guys that are shooting 60 or 65 percent from the field, and they didn’t touch the ball that much when it got close.”
Lawrence said he thought the Bulldogs were getting a little tired after Missouri’s run to tie the game, and that provided the Tigers with a prime chance take control.
Lawrence scored a career-high 28, but Mississippi State’s balanced attack made the difference. Bulldogs guards Barry Stewart, Jamont Gordon, Ben Hansbrough and Phil Turner all scored in double figures, and Stewart led the Bulldogs with his own career-high of 24 points.
“It kind of seems all for naught,” Lawrence said of his career-high. “You have a lot of points but that ‘W’ is what you’re after.”
The loss dropped Missouri to 9-5, with all of the losses coming away from Mizzou Arena. In each loss, the Tigers had opportunities to win.
“It’s kind of like the same kind of game all year,” Lawrence said. “It’s very frustrating. They got a little lead on us, and we kind of folded again. That’s something we need to correct, and we need to start coming up with wins in close games.”
Even though the team has struggled, Lawrence has played better on the road this season. His previous scoring high this year came when he scored 17 points in a loss at California.
“I don’t know what it is, I like playing against a different crowd that’s booing you and yelling at you,” Lawrence said. “It kind of gets me going a little bit. I like playing on the road. I like silencing the crowd. I don’t know why that is, it just happened to be that way this year.”
The Bulldogs were without forward Charles Rhodes, their second-leading scorer at 15.6 points per game, because he sprained his ankle in practice on Thursday. Stewart and Turner filled the void, both players scoring well above their season averages.
“Well, sometimes that’s what takes place with a basketball team,” Anderson said. “When you have some adversity take place, you have an opportunity for some other guys to step up.”