Men’s basketball falls 75-71 to Ole Miss

Sophomore Kevin Puryear had a career-high 26 points to lead the Tigers.

Freshman forward Reed Nikko, 14, dives for a ball during the Tigers’ home match facing Ole Miss in an attempt to steal the ball from Ole Miss senior forward Sebastian Saiz, 11.

Despite tremendous performances from sophomore Kevin Puryear and senior Russell Woods, the Missouri Tigers were unable to stop their losing streak on Saturday afternoon at Mizzou Arena, falling to the Ole Miss Rebels, 75-71.

Puryear had 26 points and eight rebounds, and Woods posted his second career double-double to lead the Tigers, who fell to 5-13 overall and 0-6 in SEC play. The Tigers have now lost ten in a row.

Mizzou was sunk by poor free-throw shooting, going just 6-17 from the line, and an inability to contain Ole Miss senior forward Sebastian Saiz, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Coach Kim Anderson said he was disappointed in his team’s inability to hit free throws and make defensive adjustments down the stretch.

“We just didn’t make smart plays,” he said. “When we don’t execute, we don’t make free throws, we don’t get to our defensive position on time and we make dumb fouls; we’re just not good enough to overcome all that.”

At times, the Missouri team that played on Saturday afternoon looked very different from the team that has struggled for much of the season. The Tigers shot the ball relatively well, shooting 44.3 percent from the field and sinking 11 threes. The team got some key outside shots from sophomore Cullen VanLeer and Puryear, who have both struggled to shoot the three ball this season.

Coach Andy Kennedy of Ole Miss said he was impressed with the Tigers’ tenacity and effort.

“I thought they really fought,” Kennedy said. “Missouri made plays.”

Missouri began the second half down 39-33, despite out rebounding the Rebels in the first half, 23-17. However, the team came out of the locker room shooting quite well, starting four of five from downtown and forcing the Rebels to switch from the half-court press that had been giving the Tigers fits in the opening period. Mizzou was not able to take the lead, however, as the game stayed 50-49 for 3:18 and the Tigers failed to score for 4:24.

Puryear pointed to the lull in scoring as a missed opportunity for the Tigers to put together a lead.

“Going scoreless in five possessions is inexcusable,” he said. “Sometimes we rush too much, and we can’t have that. I feel like we need to gather ourselves more and stay composed.”

A Puryear three with 9:25 left got Missouri out of its scoring lull back within two, and a series of defensive stops followed by a VanLeer three at 7:34 gave the team its first lead of the day.

With the 10,378 in attendance at Mizzou Arena rocking, it appeared the Tigers had turned the game, and perhaps their season, around. But an 8-0 run from the Rebels put them back in the driver’s seat and restored reality to Columbia.

Puryear stressed that Missouri just needs to keep working.

“We’re so close, so all we can do is go to work the next day and keep doing what we’re doing,” he said.

Anderson said his team will go back to work before going on the road to take on Mississippi State on Wednesday, and that he was proud of his team.

“They played their butts off,” Anderson said. “I know people are tired of hearing that, but they come every day, they work hard [and] they prepare. You can’t fault their effort.”

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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