It was a night to forget at Mizzou Arena, as Missouri fell to in-state opponent Kansas City 80-66.
It's the second straight home loss to the Roos for the Tigers, as they fell 69-61 to Kansas City in 2014.
Kansas City coach Billy Donlon prides his program on being defensively sound. Last season, the Roos ranked 17th nationally in opposing points per game (62.6). On Monday night, Donlon's squad held Missouri to 66 points, and that was after a flurry from MU in the closing minutes of the blowout. The staunch defensive effort kept Tigers fans silent for most the night.
“We were stagnant the entire game,” guard Javon Pickett said of the offense’s performance.
While the Missouri offense left much to be desired, the defense perhaps was more of a problem. The Tigers had no answer for Evan Gilyard II, who finished with 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting. Twenty-five of his 28 points came in the second half, as Gilyard hit five 3s to put the Tigers away.
“We have to make him work for it,” Martin said. “He played with comfort the whole night.”
As a team, Kansas City shot 51% from the field and 70% in the second half. Even if Missouri was able to string along consistent offense, the struggling defense made a comeback unlikely.
In what could be one of the rare times this season, Missouri had the edge in height against an opponent. Martin planned on taking full advantage of it, as the Tigers' first five made field goals of the game were all in the paint.
Missouri had a hard time hanging with Kansas City early, mainly thanks to a stretch where the Tigers shot 1 for 8 over a four-minute span. The Tigers' game plan of going inside did force Kansas City's tallest starter and leading scorer, Josiah Allick, to get in foul trouble. Allick didn't see the court for the rest of the first half after his second foul at the 11:53 mark.
One of the few positives in a night of bad takeaways for MU was holding Allick scoreless.
Unfortunately, the Tigers didn't capitalize. While MU failed to get the ball in the paint, Kansas City began connecting from behind the arc starting at the 11:01 mark, connecting on three 3s and mixing in two 2-point buckets to take a 27-17 lead with 7:21 remaining.
To make matters worse for Martin, Kobe Brown picked up his second foul of the first half, taking some height out of the rotation.
Eventually, the Roos cooled down in the half, but that didn't help Martin's squad much. Missouri had only four assists in the first half and turned the ball over eight times.
With no consistency on either end of the court, the Tigers trailed 32-23 at the half.
Chicago product Gilyard — whose cousin Stefhon Hannah played at MU from 2006-08 — put the Roos' offense on his back with five 3-pointers in the second half. Gilyard only missed one 3-point attempt in the half.
“We let him do whatever he wanted to do. It was the game-changer,” Pickett said.
Kansas City fed off Gilyard's energy by hitting seven straight field goals as a team to extend its lead to 56-34 over Missouri with 11:20 left in the game.
“They make a couple shots, made our defense spread out, and then it spiraled from there,” Martin said.
With just more than 10 minutes left, Martin decided to keep Brown in the game despite his four fouls. The decision paid off for the Tigers in the short term, as Brown fired up the fans in Mizzou Arena for the first time all night with his and-1 that started an 8-0 Missouri run. However, Brown lost some aggressiveness in caution of picking up his fifth foul.
“Playing with four fouls isn’t easy to do,” Brown said.
Unfortunately, the Tigers' biggest nightmare, also known as Gilyard, hit a deep 3 to stop Missouri's run and kick-start a stretch where the Roos shot 11 of 13, stopping any chance of a Tigers comeback.
Missouri finished the game with 18 turnovers and shot 29% from behind the arc.
“18 turnovers and 10 missed free-throws, you can’t win games like that,” Martin said.
To make things worse for Martin, guard Jarron Coleman left the game with 17:06 left after he tweaked his ankle going up for a layup. The guard’s absence left Missouri’s offense stagnant.
Missouri ended the game shooting 7 of 8, which cut into the Roos' lead, but it was too little, too late for Martin and his team. Brown led the Tigers with 20 points, and Ronnie DeGray III added 14. Amari Davis led the team in rebounds with seven.
“Sometimes those painful lessons. ... You have to go through them,” Martin said. “We have an intelligent group of men so when they see the film they will see the things we didn’t do.”
Martin's squad gets a chance to redeem itself in three days, against Northern Illinois on Thursday night, before heading to the Jacksonville Classic.
“It’s a learning experience, it could happen to anyone,” Brown said. “We just have to keep pushing, keep fighting.”