KANSAS CITY — Missouri entered the Big 12 Tournament as defending champions for the first time, but its title defense ended as soon as it began.
No. 12 seed Nebraska knocked off No. 5 seed Missouri 75-60 in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament at the Sprint Center.
It marked only the second time in tournament history a 12th-seeded team beat a No. 5-seed.
"Today just felt like it was kind of like Murphy's Law," senior guard J.T. Tiller said. "What could go wrong will go wrong."
Things went wrong early and often for Missouri. From start to finish, Nebraska held a firm grasp on the momentum. Missouri never led and found itself trailing by as much as 17 points in a bewildering first half.
On the strength of a 16-3 run, the Cornhuskers jetted out to 26-9 advantage 10 minutes into the game. The Tigers never fully recovered.
"I thought (Nebraska) played with nothing to lose and everything to gain," coach Mike Anderson said. "I just didn't think we had the energy you've got to have, especially in this setting, in a tournament setting, where it's one game and you're done."
Nebraska lit up Missouri's defense with 55.8 percent shooting for the game, as the Tigers struggled throughout to score points and ended with a 33.9 percent field goal percentage. Shots the Cornhuskers did miss were often gobbled up for rebounds, as Nebraska dominated the boards 38 to 22.
Repeated misses on point blank shots and layups by Missouri punctuated the frustrating offensive performance.
Missouri's lack of offense followed up a cold shooting performance against Kansas on Saturday.
"The games when we haven't shot the ball well, our defense can only hold us in the game for so long," sophomore forward Laurence Bowers said. "We've got to put up points, and since we haven't been able to do it, we've been suffering for it."
Nebraska ended the first half leading 39-28, and any thoughts of a Missouri comeback to begin the second half we made more remote by a 7-0 Cornhusker run. The Tigers hung around as the half wore on, cutting the deficit to 10 points or fewer on a couple different occasions.
But for every Missouri charge, Nebraska had an answer, and the game's outcome was never in serious doubt in the final minutes. Missouri had the bigger contingent of fans make it out for the game, but most were silent as the sounds of the Husker faithful filled the arena at the end of the game.
Bowers paced the Tigers with 11 points, despite having a heavily taped up left wrist. The only Tiger in double figures, Bowers also led Missouri with six assists.
The Tigers now await their fate in the NCAA Tournament when selections are announced this Sunday.
"I think we're a lot better than what we showed today, and like coach said, we've just got to get back in the lab and hope that we have another season, which is the NCAA Tournament," Bowers said. "If they do decide to let us in, let's give it our all because it's survive or go home."