Missouri dooms itself with 25 turnovers in 76-59 loss at Iowa State

After Jeremiah Tilmon was deemed the centerpiece of the MU offense following a season-opening win, he led the team with five turnovers as Iowa State shut down the sophomore.
Missouri players Jordan Geist, Christian Guess, Javon Pickett and Jeremiah Tilmon watch from the bench as the clock hits zero in the second half of Missouri's 76-59 loss to Iowa St. Friday night in Ames, Iowa.

AMES, Iowa – Cuonzo Martin was watching his 2017-18 team again for a moment.

His senior point guard Jordan Geist was greeted by full-court pressure after Iowa State missed a pair of free throws that could have tied the game or given the Cyclones the lead. Instead, Missouri’s 20-19 advantage stayed safe for a moment. But like last season, no lead could be safe for the 2018-19 Tigers against a full-court press.

“It’s a new year,” Martin said, “but some of it [looked familiar].”

Geist committed a silly turnover – one of Missouri’s 15 in the half and 25 in the game – and Iowa State turned the ensuing scramble into a wide open 3-pointer for its first lead since the score was 4-2. Then the moment turned into many more.

Missouri suffered from self-inflicted wounds in a 76-59 loss at Iowa State Friday night, 364 days after the Tigers bested their former Big 12 foe 74-59 in Columbia to tip off a revival season for the program.

Those Tigers went on to finish 20-12 last season, but their weaknesses reemerged the brightest during an ugly back end of a home-and-home with Iowa State. Missouri (1-1) turned the ball over 25 times to Iowa State’s 7 and was out-scored 25-6 in points off those turnovers.

“It just seemed like it was one [turnover] after another,” senior Kevin Puryear said.

The Tigers led for most of the first half despite issuing four turnovers on their first five possessions, but those shortcomings proved foreboding as the half progressed. Missouri self-destructed as Iowa State scored the last 9 points of the half in its final 2:15. Another corner 3 capped the surge in the final minute, and the Tigers retreated to the locker room under deafening duress from the Cyclone faithful.

“I remember being a freshman in a really good road environment,” Martin said. “Young guys in a hostile environment has something to do with it.”

Geist was intercepted on Missouri’s first possession of the second half, and the lead quickly extended to 47-30 after the intermission. It was a cumulative 22-5 run before Martin started letting Puryear do with it what he may. He scored 9 straight for Missouri as the deficit was cut to 10, but it was just a flicker before Missouri fully extinguished. Iowa State reopened the lead to as many as 21.

Missouri was whistled for 18 of its 26 fouls in the second half. Geist fouled out, Watson finished with four and Puryear was limited in the first half after picking up two early ones. Iowa State got to attempt 35 free throws in the game, 26 of them in the second half.

The Cyclones were also playing without star sophomore guard Lindell Wigginton in the win, who averaged 16 points per game last season but was unavailable after suffering a left foot strain.

Missouri’s turnovers were spread around a variety of sources, not just Geist in the backcourt. Eight of the nine regular players Martin is expected to stick with this year committed at least one turnover. Seven committed at least two.

“A lot of them were unforced because it’s not as if the other team pressured the whole game,” Martin said. “It was more of us.”

Jeremiah Tilmon – who was said Tuesday to be the center of the offense – was tops with five giveaways as the undersized Cyclones swarmed the 6-foot-10 sophomore in the paint. Sophomore forward Mitchell Smith and freshmen guards Xavier Pinson and Javon Pickett had four each, Geist had three, and Puryear and sophomore Reed Nikko both had two.

Tilmon’s total might be the most striking for Martin when reevaluating the game, and the most indicative of the entire team’s performance. Martin lauded Tilmon as a centerpiece of the offense after Missouri bested Central Arkansas in Tuesday’s season opener.

The idea is to run the offense through the post, feeding Tilmon and making opponents choose between losing one-on-one matchups down low versus double-teaming and opening up the rest of the floor for Tilmon to distribute to open shooters.

But Iowa State forced Tilmon away from his natural habitat on Friday night, sandwiching him off the ball in the post. There was even an off-ball flagrant called against the Cyclones. Their mantra, players and coach Steve Prohm reaffirmed afterward, was that if Tilmon wanted to be effective, he would have to venture 15 to 18 feet from the basket.

“We had to make sure we limited him,” Prohm said.

Tilmon finished with 5 points to match his turnover total. When he wandered to give a high ball screen, Iowa State defenders switched with the pick then doubled Tilmon if he was given the ball off the roll. The young guards around him stagnated against the approach.

“They were blitzing him in the post, so it was one of those deals where we had to make shots on the perimeter,” Martin said.

So what went wrong?

“The cutting, the moving,” Martin said.

(Or lack thereof.)

Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com

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