With just over nine minutes to go, the crowd at Mizzou Arena was screaming.
As Texas A&M took a break, the student section waved white balloons as the rest of the crowd stood up. D’Moi Hodge had hit a three-pointer to cut Aggie’s lead over Missouri men’s basketball to eight.
It was the most intense life the Tigers had shown in the game, one in which they had struggled to defend and rebound against a Texas A&M team that ranked as one of the best teams in the SEC.
Unfortunately for Missouri, that was the longest life it would have the rest of the way. MU’s struggles continued and the Aggies took the lead again.
“There were runs in that game where I thought we were going to go down to eight or 10 and then turn it around,” said Mizzou coach Dennis Gates. “We didn’t give ourselves the chance to get to the other end of that run.”
MU ended up losing 69-60 The loss dropped the Tigers to 19-8 on the season, 7-7 in SEC play.
For a team that could have capitalized on a win after a tough loss to Auburn, that was tough to take. The Tigers had their chances throughout, but were never able to sustain runs long enough to win.
After a disaster in the first half, Missouri looked better after halftime. While they were unable to reach the 70-point mark that marked a win throughout the 2022-23 season, their shooting improved in the second half, with the Tigers making 52.4 percent of their field goals.
“We played from behind,” Gates said. “We lost more than 39 minutes of the match, and this is a tough place to be. We didn’t do enough.”
Kobe Brown led the Tigers with 24 points. Hodge (12 points) was the only other Tiger in double figures.
Last time Missouri played Texas A&M, shooting was a big deal. When the Tigers lost to Auburn last time out, shooting was a big deal.
And in the first half of Saturday’s rematch with the Aggies, the woes continued on the pitch. MU hit just 9 of 30 field goals during the half, good for a 30% clip.
Offensive problems meant Missouri’s strong efforts on the defensive end went unrewarded. One game after the Tigers lost their turnover battle to Auburn, they went home and forced 13 Texas A&M giveaways in the first half.
“Every time we went to the huddle they would tell us how many times we’ve run the ball over them,” Brown said. “We were all thinking, ‘How is this possible, we’re down by X points?’ So we just have to go out and take shots next time.
Missouri made 4 of 13 three-point attempts in the first half. D’Moi Hodge led the effort from beyond the arc, hitting 2 out of 4 tries from distance.
Like most games in which they struggled from the field, it wasn’t immediately clear what the problem was for the Tigers. Texas A&M had its turnover issues, but was able to rally numbers on defense, which limited some of the damage Missouri could do. The Tigers also had trouble missing the open shots presented to them.
Missouri went to the locker room down 39-25. Kobe Brown led the home team in scoring, with 10 points, and in rebounding, with four.
What does it mean
With the loss, Missouri fell to 7-7 in SEC play and is now on a two-game conference slide since DeAndre Gholston buzzer-hit three-pointers to beat Tennessee. The Tigers entered the game in sixth place in the conference, sharing the same record as Vanderbilt but with a head-to-head victory over the Commodores.
Missouri is still technically in the running for a double bye in the SEC Tournament, which goes to the top four teams in the standings after the regular season. However, the loss made things tougher for the Tigers, who sit behind Auburn and Kentucky for the spot — and now another team.
To make matters worse, with Auburn and Vanderbilt facing each other on Saturday night, MU dropped another spot in the standings, as Vanderbilt earned the win. The Tigers now sit in seventh place in the conference.
At 7-7, Missouri is now tied with Arkansas and Florida. The Razorbacks beat the Gators on Saturday.
Georgia had entered the day just below MU at 6-7, but was hammered by Alabama and fell to 6-8, tied with Mississippi State. Missouri still has four more chances to improve on their standing before the SEC Tournament, starting with Mississippi State on Tuesday, followed by games against Georgia, LSU and Ole Miss.
The Mississippi State game is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. and will be televised on the SEC Network.
The Star partnered with the Columbia Daily Tribune for their coverage of Missouri Tigers athletics.