Missouri can’t overcome slow start in upset loss to Charleston Southern

The Tigers will look to snap a three game losing streak on Saturday against Temple.
Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin points to one of his players during the Tigers' 60-68 loss to Charleston Southern University on Dec. 3. Photo by Assistant Photo Editor Andrew Moore

Missouri had a week to try to fix its slow start issues.

A home matchup against Charleston Southern –– ranked No. 313 entering Tuesday’s game –– should have been enough for the Tigers to get back on track. Instead, Missouri let the Buccaneers hang around and a late run capped off a 68-60 upset in Missouri’s worst home loss during the Cuonzo Martin era.

Last week, Missouri lost both games in the Hall of Fame Classic after failing to overcome early double digit deficits to Butler and Oklahoma.

Martin mixed up the starting lineup, replacing Xavier Pinson for Javon Pickett, hoping to give the team more speed and aggressiveness from the start. But the Tigers were held without a field goal for the game’s first four minutes and trailed 12-3 midway through the first half. Missouri’s third leading scorer, junior center Jeremiah Tilmon, went scoreless in the first half.

“I thought offensively, it just didn’t flow right,” Martin said. “We were just a step slow.”

“We’ve been talking about playing with energy from the get-go,” redshirt junior forward Mitchell Smith said. “We just got to come out with a bunch of energy, guys have to be locked in and focused doing what coach says.”

Unlikely offensive contributors Smith and Reed Nikko sparked Missouri’s offense and despite nine first half turnovers, the Tigers led by five at the break. Missouri’s lead was as large as nine in the second half, but the Buccaneers closed the gap to one with 10 minutes to play. The teams traded leads until Charleston Southern knocked down three consecutive triples to bury the Tigers on their home floor.

“You don’t put them away, they’re gonna feel like they have life and can hang with you, and they did that tonight,” Smith said. “We just gotta learn how to put teams down when we’ve got them down and step on their throats, but we’re gonna get there for sure.”

If any team had an excuse to start slow, it would have been Charleston Southern. The Buccaneers didn’t practice Friday after a long travel day from South Carolina.

“Fighting so many odds, the travel just to get here,” said Charleston Southern head coach Barclay Radebaugh, drenched in water from the postgame celebration. “Just to get into Nashville, two hour delay, St. Louis and then a two hour bus ride over. But we remained thankful and positive through all that.”

For Missouri, the loss again exposes its continued offensive woes but for Charleston Southern, the win can jumpstart and energize a program that had lost to Furman and Southern Utah by more than 30 points.

“The biggest thing they did was they never lost hope from Michigan State and Dayton, Furman and Southern Utah,” Radebaugh said. “They never lost hope. They’re incredible men and they’re fun to coach. I knew this day was coming.”

Edite by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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