Fresh Legs, Same Old story for the Missouri Tigers
(St. Louis, MO) – Despite regaining the services of Montaque Gill-Caesar and Namon Wright, Mizzou saw its losing streak grow even more grotesque Saturday night. Mississippi State used a late flurry of free throws to salt away a 77-74 victory in Columbia.
The host squad had planned on heavy contributions from the guards, who were suspended for the previous two contests for undisclosed reasons. Neither individual found much success, however, as MU’s skid hit 11 games.
“Our two freshmen struggled from the perimeter,” coach Kim Anderson said. “I thought they had some pretty good shots. They just didn’t make them.”
Gill-Caesar and Wright combined for eight points and eight turnovers while shooting 3 of 15. The Bulldogs, conversely, oozed confidence from the outset. A 21-5 run midway through the first half helped the visitors build a 40-29 halftime edge.
As the temperatures outside plummeted, Mississippi State (12-13, 5-7 Southeastern Conference) kept scorching the nets inside Mizzou Arena. Yet a yeoman’s effort by Johnathan Williams III almost rescued the Tigers. The sophomore forward shook off early foul trouble to pour in 23 of his career-high 27 points following intermission.
“His talent level is really high,” Bulldogs coach Rick Ray said. “What happens sometimes when you’re on a team that’s struggling, people just kind of surround Johnathan Williams. I thought he did a really good job of attacking and not settling. Sometimes in those situations guys settle for jump shots, but he did a great job facing up and trying to get to the rim.”
Williams’ singular brilliance brought Missouri (7-18, 1-11) back from a 17-point deficit at one stage. Still, he could only watch helplessly as Mississippi State dealt the Tigers a slow death from the charity stripe. Senior forward Roquez Johnson and junior guard Craig Sword converted all six of their attempts in the final 52 seconds.
“We give up too many points from the line, and it’s defense,” Anderson said. “We’ve got to get those … guys to where they do a good job of guarding and not getting in foul trouble, because we need everybody in the game.”
A trip to Fayetteville won’t make matters any easier, either. On Wednesday, the Tigers play at No. 24 Arkansas, which narrowly knocked off Ole Miss over the weekend.