KANSAS CITY — In the opening round of the Big 12 Tournament, the No. 5-seeded Tigers were left feeling winded at the Sprint Center after No. 12 seed Nebraska ran all over the defending conference tournament champions.
Nebraska looked nothing like the team Missouri beat handily twice earlier this season. The Tigers took care of business at home Jan. 23, and then again in Lincoln, Neb., a month later.
But between the two cities, Missouri hit a bump in the road.
"I thought they were much more hungry," coach Mike Anderson said of Nebraska. "They've had some tough ballgames, but this was one of those ballgames where everything went right for them. They were making shots. It seemed like every loose ball, they got it. We made a run at them, but boy, for some reason it just didn't take place for us."
Right away, it was apparent coach Doc Sadler's team came out looking to make a statement. In the full 40 minutes, the Huskers and Tigers were tied for a total of 58 seconds. Nebraska sophomore guard Brandon Richardson broke that tie when he hit a 3-pointer to put his team up 3-0 at the start of the game.
Missouri would never match or better their opponent's score for the rest of the contest.
"The first two games we played against (Missouri), we just didn't run offense," Richardson said. "We just watched them over and over. We had a low percentage of how many times we ran offense. In this game, we really executed, we slowed the game down and we made them play our game. And the outcome was good for us because we ran offense."
Nebraska put on an offensive clinic compared to the Tigers. The Huskers hit 24-of-43 shots for a 55.8 shooting percentage. In addition, they were 8-of-14 from beyond the arc. Missouri, on the other hand, continued to be ice cold from anywhere on the court.
Anderson and his players insist they are a good shooting team, but recent stats would suggest the team is in a slump. Since beating Colorado on Feb. 24 at home, the Tigers have dropped three of their last four games.
In those three losses, Missouri is shooting a combined 33.7 percent.
"You could see (Nebraska) was much more aggressive," Anderson said. "When you put the ball in the hole like they were, it makes you a little bit more aggressive. Again, I thought they came out looking more relaxed and played loose and had fun, I guess."
Sadler said unlike Missouri, his team had nothing to lose. After going 15-17 and 2-14 in the Big 12, the Cornhuskers will not secure a bid to the NCAA Tournament without winning the conference tourney. Anderson's team still has a chance to lock up one of those coveted bids.
The nothing-to-lose attitude was clear in Nebraska. It was diving for every loose ball, and seemed to come up with many of them. But in the end, it was the adjustments it made that helped it upset the Tigers.
"One of the problems we had last game was that we made shots early," Nebraska senior guard Ryan Anderson said. "And that style of play, it sucks you in. It makes you think that it's going to keep happening like that. When you keep shooting those shots and they aren't going in, there goes your advantage. So we just tried to execute and take good shots the whole game this time."