Despite free throw record, Missouri loses heartbreaker to Texas A&M

The Tigers set an NCAA record for consecutive made free throws but struggled to score from the field.
Mitchell Smith plays defense during Missouri's loss to Texas A&M Tuesday night. Photo by Kirubel Mesfin

Stark contrast between perfection and inconsistency plagued Missouri men’s basketball (9-9, 1-5 SEC) in a dramatic 66-64 loss to Texas A&M (9-8, 3-3 SEC) at Mizzou Arena on Tuesday night.

The Tigers set an NCAA record for consecutive made free throws — 54 across two games — but struggled once again to score regularly from the field in a dramatic defeat.

The result underscored the joy of the record for players.

“I don’t even think most of us know that we set a record,” Dru Smith said. “It’s tough … we’re all focused on the game, whether or not we’re winning.”

Missouri’s open-play shooting woes were very much present in the first half. After Mark Smith made a 3-pointer on his team’s first shot, the Tigers missed their next nine field goals, allowing the Aggies to lead by as much as eight points early on.

Missouri recovered, but the shooting success that it had begun to find near the end of the first half failed to materialize early in the second. The Tigers opened the half 1-6 from the field and conceded an 8-0 run that gave the Aggies the lead once more.

“I think part of it was just shots not falling,” coach Cuonzo Martin said. “We had some pretty good looks, especially in the corners.”

Missouri’s offense was either unwilling or unable to drive to the basket against Texas A&M, forcing the Tigers to pass the ball repeatedly around the horn and settle for inopportune jump shots. Despite those struggles, Missouri trailed by a single possession with four minutes to go in the game.

The game looked to have gone beyond the Tigers’ control as the Aggies led by nine with 1:40 left in the game and some fans hit the exits. Two 3-pointers from Mark Smith — and continued success from the charity stripe — brought the Tigers within a single possession with under a minute to play.

Savion Flagg had an opportunity to put the visitors up by three when he went to the line for two free throws, but the career 64% free-throw shooter missed both. Dru Smith was whistled for an offensive foul on the ensuing possession and Texas A&M built a three-point cushion.

Missouri had the ball at the opposite baseline with two seconds left, requiring a baseball-esque throw from Mark Smith. He got the ball to Parker Braun, who dished it off to Torrence Watson for a 3-point attempt at the buzzer which clanged off the rim.

“[It was] just one of our plays,” Martin said of the last-second close call. “Mark [Smith] did a great job of putting the ball where we needed.”

In their final non-conference game of the season, the Tigers visit West Virginia (15-3, 4-2 Big 12) as part of the SEC-Big 12 Challenge on Saturday.

Edited by Wilson Moore | wmoore@themaneater.com

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