The No. 13 Missouri Tigers will look to bounce back on Saturday when they host the LSU Tigers in a Southeastern Conference game in Columbia, Missouri.
Missouri (7-2 overall, 1-2 in the SEC) collapsed in the second half of its 78-63 loss at Mississippi State on Tuesday. After leading by 14 points during the first half, Missouri allowed the Bulldogs to beat them 51-24 in the final 20 minutes.
“We have to be tougher in certain areas, especially in the second half,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said. “When teams are doing a race, we have to put on a little more courage. And they made enough plays, and we just couldn’t recover.”
LSU (7-2, 2-1) is coming off a 94-92 overtime win over Georgia at home on Wednesday. LSU trailed the Bulldogs by 10 with 9:07 before rallying to force overtime and win.
“We need games like this,” LSU standout Ja’Vonte Smart told reporters. “SEC games are tough. We have to find ways to figure things out and keep fighting. We will go back to the lab and keep working. I know our defense was not the best, but I promise we will get better.”
Whoever wins the LSU-Missouri game will strengthen their case for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Missouri looked like a postseason team while running an efficient offense and playing tough first-half defense at Mississippi State.
“I thought we had one of our best halves all season in the first half,” Martin said. “We were really moving the ball, sharing the ball, defending, guarding the lane, getting everything we wanted from the actions on the ball screen.”
Missouri did little of that in the second half. Now, he hopes to regain that form from the first half when he returns to Mizzou Arena.
Martin’s team will need a lot of offense against LSU, which is averaging 86.8 points per game. Through Wednesday’s games, he was tied for 12th best in NCAA Division I.
LSU is led by Cameron Thomas, one of the top freshmen in the nation. He averages 24.8 points per game and misses 91.2 percent of his free throws.
Trendon Watford (17.4 points, 6.8 rebounds per game), Smart (15.3 ppg) and Darius Days (13.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg) are very supportive.
Where LSU can still improve is on the defensive end, where it finally cracked down on Georgia late in the game.
“Our defensive activity was better, and our 19 steals and 22 turnovers really rescued us,” said coach Will Wade. “But we have to be a little more consistent and we have to have that urgency from the beginning.”
Missouri’s offense got a much-needed boost from center Jeremiah Tilmon, who scored 41 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in his last two games. But overall, Missouri couldn’t control lane against Mississippi state, which rebounded the Tigers 37-22.
“You have to take pride in getting guys out of boxing,” Martin said. “And it can’t just be Jeremiah. Other guys have to take pride in hitting bodies and blocking.”
Point guard Xavier Pinson is averaging 14.8 points and 3.8 assists for Missouri. He posted 36 points and 12 assists collectively in his last two games.
But fellow point guards Mark Smith (11.9 points per game) and Dru Smith (11.3 points per game) have been struggling lately. Neither of them have managed to score in double figures in three of their last four games.
–Field level media
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.