When Missouri men’s basketball last faced off against Texas A&M, it was an abysmal night for the Tigers. MU could not make shots, hitting 35.6% from the field and 22.6% from three-point range.
Missouri lost the one in College Station, but will have another crack to the Aggies at Mizzou Arena on Saturday. The Tigers enter fresh from another poor shooting performance in Auburn, a game MU lost 89-56 on Tuesday.
“Our guys have IQs, they understand what happened,” Missouri coach Dennis Gates said Friday. “They understand exactly what happened. They have awareness. We just (we weren’t) able to get him back on our side and they soon left.
The Auburn game was even worse for MU. Bruce Pearl had called it the team’s biggest game of the season, and his group played it that way, beating MU early on before the Columbia Tigers improved slightly in the second half.
Gates joked that he had amnesia for Tuesday’s loss, but he also watched the game five times to learn from MU’s mistakes.
“Does that game define us? Absolutely not,” Gates said
Even with the loss, Missouri still split a key February stretch in the SEC. The Tigers beat Tennessee, then the No. 6 team in the nation, on Saturday in Knoxville on DeAndre Gholston’s miraculous three.
According to Gates, his team could learn something from how the Volunteers bounced back after that defeat.
“We have to recover quickly,” Gates said. “What I saw was this: I saw Tennessee beat Alabama, maybe because of our play and Vandy’s play. So I’ve seen it, and that’s how you answer. We have to be able to respond in a certain way, and throughout the year teams respond.”
Gates pointed out that, prior to playing Missouri, Auburn had won only one of their last six games. Then, AU pulled things together and earned victory over Missouri.
MU guard Nick Honor said the loss hurt his team but anticipated the Tigers would pull themselves out of the funk by Saturday.
“It just wasn’t us,” said Honor. “I’m excited to see us recover, for sure.”
The Aggies enter Mizzou Arena with a record of 19-7 on the season and 11-2 in the SEC. They have won their last four games, against Arkansas, LSU, Auburn and Georgia.
If Missouri can get revenge for their first outing against A&M, an 82-64 loss on Jan. 11, the Tigers will increase their odds of getting a double bye in the SEC Tournament. The Aggies are currently second in the SEC standings.
“Texas A&M is a good team,” Honor said. “I know I’m at the top of the league. We feel we are at that level too, so tomorrow will definitely be an exciting match. Whenever you get the chance to take revenge, that would be a good job. So we’re excited.
For that to happen, Missouri’s shooting would need to get better than Auburn’s loss. Honor also cited the team’s energy level in that game as an area that needed improvement.
Gates agreed with the assessment, noting that he thought MU was “a slow pace” on tape. He also pointed out a stat that he’s emphasized all season: Missouri’s assist-to-turnover ratio.
The Tigers shot 16 times against Auburn, compared to 10 assists. MU also lost the turnover battle against Auburn, a key element for Gates’ team, which usually doesn’t get extra possessions on the boards and must compensate with increased offensive efficiency.
“We didn’t get into basketball,” Gates said. “The one offensive stat that stands out isn’t always shooting percentage, but it’s a positive ratio of assists to turnovers. And we spent a lot of time on defense, failing to protect our basket.”
Missouri and Texas A&M are expected to tip off at 5 p.m. at Mizzou Arena. It will air on ESPN 2.
The Star partnered with the Columbia Daily Tribune for their coverage of Missouri Tigers athletics.