Missouri men’s basketball has had zero luck in Mississippi this year.
Two of the Tigers’ worst losses this season came within 100 miles of each other. In Starkville, their trend of second-half meltdowns originated when a 14-point second-half lead turned into a 15-point loss Jan. 5 to Mississippi State. The second came just under two weeks ago when Ole Miss dominated Missouri on Feb. 10 in Oxford.
Missouri is 3-14 against Ole Miss all time. There’s never been a more important game for the Tigers in the series, so they’re lucky that Tuesday’s outing will be at Mizzou Arena, where Missouri is 8-2 this season, and not in Mississippi.
The Tigers falling to Mississippi teams isn’t the only trend they’ve developed. The strong defensive identity that helped them snag six Quadrant-1 wins has slowly deteriorated. Missouri has allowed at least 80 points in regulation four times in the past month, including its 80-59 loss to the Rebels.
The shift in consistency has caused Missouri to drop three of its past four games. After reaching No. 10 in the AP Top 25, the week they played in Oxford, the Tigers have since slid to No. 24. Missouri is holding on for dear life, and redemption is required if it wants to make a strong impression entering postseason play .
The Tigers on Saturday returned star center Jeremiah Tilmon, who delivered a much-needed performance to get them back in the win column. The progression and health of the team is essential when facing a team that recently suffered a break in its momentum, and Missouri will have all of its pieces with Tilmon back.
The Rebels were as hot as any team in the Southeastern Conference entering their last matchup against the Tigers. After a convincing loss to Mississippi State over the weekend, they’re also trying to put the pieces back together.
Coach Cuonzo Martin has gone over film with his group, and after taking on the Rebels’ 1-3-1 zone defense once, they feel more prepared.
“We’re gonna focus on (being) more aggressive,” graduate transfer Drew Buggs said. “Last time we were getting good looks, we just weren’t making the shots. We’re just not gonna let that get us stagnant. We have too many good players on the floor to let someone’s defense dictate how we play on the offensive end. We want to just focus on our end and being sharp and sound and execute.”
Much has changed since Missouri toppled Alabama, the top-ranked team in the SEC on Feb. 6 in Alabama. There is no overwhelming barrier between the Tigers and Rebels entering Tuesday. A fully healthy Missouri team will look to repair its reputation and earn its second straight win, while Ole Miss seeks its fifth win in six games.
The two stand a game apart in the SEC standings.
With less than two weeks left in league play, Missouri must get back on track in order to finish this season in the AP poll and as one of Martin’s best teams during his time in Columbia.