Looking for the sweep of the rest of the Tigers in the SEC, Missouri instead lost for the fourth time in eight games since its 10-0 start, continuing its plummet into “NIT team” range with a 77-71 road loss at LSU – and for entertainment purposes only – did not even cover the spread. Shake my Damn head.
For the second time in two years, Missouri failed in to close out a very winnable game at LSU (12-5, 3-2 SEC).
Missouri’s Big Three of Jabari Brown (a career-high 28), Jordan Clarkson (19) and Earnest Ross (16 points, 11 rebounds) scored 75% of the teams points – all but four each half – but it still wasn’t enough for Mizzou, now 14-4 (2-3).
Brown, who went 5-of-6 from 3, hit his fourth 3 of the night with 3:17 remaining in the game to give Missouri a 65-64 lead – its first since the 14:08 mark of the half. But, it was an ugly final three minutes. I’ll spare you most of the details besides this: Missouri made just one more shot – a Brown 3 to narrow the margin to 74-71 with 18.7 remaining – and Clarkson made three free throws to go with seven empty possessions as LSU ended the game on a 13-6 run.
Ross scored 13 of his 16 in the second half and pulled down eight of his 11 rebounds and Clarkson and Brown combined for 26 of the 33 first half points.
Missouri’s only first half lead was 29-26 after a Brown 3-pointer concluded a 10-3 run with 5:25 remaining. But Missouri closed the first half about as well as it closed the second as LSU closed the half on a 12-4 run as Mizzou scored on just two of their final 11 possessions.
Whatever it is that Frank Haith says at halftime, it works. Like always, the Tigers started the second half strong, scoring the first seven to take a 40-38 lead. Johnathan Williams III actually backed down a defender and scored in the post to give Missouri the lead. Missouri still led, 45-43, by time we got to the first media timeout of the second half (15:48). Minutes later, LSU then went on a 8-0 run to take a 53-49 lead and maintained it until Brown’s 3 with 3:17 remaining.
Missouri trailed early then tied the game at 10-10, but fell behind 18-10. They narrowed the gap to 21-19 halfway through the first half and used the 10-3 run to take its only lead of the half.
- Jordan Clarkson: 35 Min, 19 Pts (7-18 FG, 2-5 3PT, 3-4 FT), 5 Reb (1 Off), 3 Ast, 4 Stl, 4 TO, 2 PF
- Earnest Ross: 31 Min, 16 Pts (5-12 FG, 1-3 3PT, 5-6 FT), 11 Reb (4 Off), 2 Stl, 1 TO, 4 PF
- Jabari Brown: 36 Min, 28 Pts (10-15 FG, 5-6 3PT, 3-5 FT), 4 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 TO, 1 PF
- Johnathan Williams III: 31 Min, 4 Pts (2-6 FG, 0-1 3PT, 0-1 FT), 8 Reb (4 Off), 1 Ast, 3 TO, 4 PF
- Ryan Rosburg: 19 Min, 2 Pts (1-4 FG), 2 Reb (1 Off), 1 Blk, 1 PF
- Wes Clark: 16 Min, 0 Pts (0-4 FG, 0-2 3PT), 1 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 3 PF
- Tony Criswell: 20 Min, 2 Pts (1-6 FG, 0-1 3PT), 6 Reb (3 Off), 1 Ast, 1 TO, 2 PF
- Keanau Post: 5 Min, 1 PF
- Torren Jones: 5 Min, 0 Pts (0-1 FG), 2 PF
- Shane Rector: 2 Min
- LSU and Mizzou are the top two shooting defense teams in the league.
- Post fouls within the first minute after checking into the game…again.
- Mizzou started the game in the matchup zone that worked so well against Bama on Saturday, but came out of early as LSU launched away from 3, hitting four of their first eight. They finished the half 2-9 after Missouri switched to man, but many were still WIDE OPEN. Missouri went back to the matchup zone for most of the second half, where the 3 was defended much better as LSU went 1-for-5.
- Missouri, who’s 27 free throws attempted per game are second best in the SEC, shot just one in the first half, as Earnest Ross’s completed an And-1 to pull within 10-7 early. Frank Haith was not happy with his team shooting just one first half free throw. Overall, Missouri got to the line much better in the second half – already in the bonus nine minutes in – and finished 11-16, but were outshot at the line for the second straight road game after it hadn’t happened all season.
- Wes Clark missed three 3’s – one an airball – and went 0-4 overall. He is now 1-10 from 3, 2-20 from the field overall in SEC play. BRUTAL.
- It was a struggle in the post for Mizzou’s bigs with Rosburg, Criswell and Williams and Torren Jones were a combined 4-16.
- Mizzou closed each half poorly. They were outscored 25-10 and had 16 empty possessions in the final 5:25 of the first half/3:17 of 2nd half. The other remaining 31:58 of the game, Missouri outscored LSU 61-52.
- Mizzou is 3-9 on the road in the SEC. Their three wins? Awful teams in Mississippi St. and South Carolina last year and an Auburn team this year that had lost 17 of 18 LEAGUE games. So…
- It was “progression back to the mean” that we talked about after Saturday’s game for some struggling 3-point shooters. Clarkson, who was 1 for his last 14, made two of his first three and finished 2-4. Ross, snapped an 0-for-his-last-8 with a 3 from the corner that pulled MU within 62-61.
- The Brown-Ross-Clarkson trio scored 63 points on 45 FG attempts. Plus, they grabbed 20 rebounds (five offensive), dished four assists, and nabbed six steals. You should always win when your backcourt is averaging 1.4 points per FG attempt. It’s almost criminal that the rest of the team was awful enough for Missouri to lose this game with the output they produced.
Final Thoughts: Much like last year, close road losses leaves you wondering what if.
I firmly believed that this team would be as good as its Big 3 of Ross, Clarkson and Brown this year. But, thats not even enough. The trio scored 75% of the team’s points (63 of 71) – and all but 4 in each half, but no bench (2 points) + lack of consistent post presence and big’s making shots = long year. While the Big Three did what the Big Three does, everyone else: 98 minutes, 8 points, 4-21 FG, 0-4 3-pointers, 17 rebounds, two assists, four turnovers, 13 fouls. Wow. Before conference play started, I thought Mizzou would be 4-1 in league play at this point. Instead 2-3. Now what should be an easy home game against South Carolina before a brutal 4-game stretch that features at Arkansas, Ole Miss and Florida and a home game against Kentucky. It is looking a lot and a lot more like an NIT season. But, plenty of time for that to change, but there is no evidence of that change. As talented as Missouri’s Big Three is, it has to many other weaknesses – lack of senior leadership, the no inside game and no bench. How much better could this team be if Phil Pressey was still here and playing point guard with Clarkson at the 2 instead of the 1, Brown still on the wing and Ross playing 4 – moving Williams III to the 5? Sure, this wouldn’t help the big hole in the paint, but the offense would be much better. Now – because of the lack of inside game – the offense consists of Clarkson driving the basket and shooting – sometimes forcing – or kicking it out to Brown. It leads to a lot of one on one, and the result is 12 assists in TWO game…sometimes Flip would get that in one game. Also, the bench would be better than it is had Negus Webster-Chan not transferred. No, he was not great. But he would be the best player off our bench this year, considering the whole Criswell in the doghouse sage. I thought it was dumb of him to transfer last year when he did as everyone pretty much expected Pressey to go pro and that would have given him more playing time. Also, Stefan Jankovic may never have received consistent playing time this year with his defensive liability, but, he could light up the scoreboard, and even if it is in small chunks, Missouri could really use his offense off the bench. Add in the transfer of Dominique Bull in the offseason, and Rosburg is the only player remaining from that class. That’s eight freshman recruits in two classes with one good player (JW3), one potentially solid contributor who can’t shoot (Clark) and a role-player (Rosburg) – who has to start – and a motor guy in Torren Jones.
The Big Three won’t be enough this year. Missouri likely won’t be making the NCAA Tournament for a would-be school record sixth time in a row. There simply isn’t enough pieces/parts on this team to make it to the NCAA Tournament, unless something dramatically changes in the next couple months.