The Maneater

Missouri’s comeback attempt comes up short in loss to Temple

Missouri’s offense couldn’t overcome 15 turnovers and the Tigers fell to 3-3 on the season.

Mark Smith (13) and the Missouri bench watch as forward Javon Pickett gets tied up with Temple guard Shizz Alston, Jr. and called for a foul late in the fourth quarter of the Tigers' 79-77 loss to the Owls on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 at Mizzou Arena.

After two Jeremiah Tilmon free throws, Missouri was put in a familiar position.

Breaking a 26-point deadlock, Missouri led by 2 with 3:52 left in the first half. But then Temple guard Quinton Rose swiped the ball from forward Torrence Watson on Missouri’s next possession and sent the Tigers down an all too familiar path.

Rose scored a breakaway layup, then a Jordan Geist turnover turned into a triple by Temple forward De’Vondre Perry and sent Temple on a 16-4 run to end the half. It gave the Owls (6-1) a 10-point halftime lead they wouldn’t relinquish, handing Missouri (3-3) a 79-77 loss.

Missouri had four turnovers in the last 3:07 of the first half to spearhead Temple’s tear rolling into halftime.

“It’s tough and it puts a lot of pressure on your defense,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said. “I think we’ll get to the level defensively where we’ll be able to handle that pressure if that happens, but we’re not at that level yet.”

Missouri’s first half meltdowns not only cost them tonight, but in its two other losses as well. In Missouri’s first loss of the season,, a 12-2 run to end the half from Iowa State sent Missouri on its way to its first loss this season.

A week later in the Virgin Islands, Missouri stood in the same spot, fighting blow-for-blow with No. 12 Kansas State until a 13-0 run to end the first half buried the Tigers and handed them their second loss.

Those three first-half runs could be the difference between a 3-3 and 6-0 Missouri team.

At the under four timeout in the first half in every game this season, Missouri has either lead or been tied with its opponent, but in the Tigers three losses, they’ve been outscored 41-8 in the last four minutes of the first half.

“I can’t really put my finger on it.” Kevin Puryear said. “All I know is we need to play 40 complete minutes of basketball and that’s what is going to win us games.”

Martin said the struggles after the game’s first 15 minutes comes from picking the right bench players to cycle onto the floor.

“Just studying our lineups and understanding who on the floor is out there to give us the best chance,” Martin said. “I think it has more to do with lineups than anything.”

Missouri nearly overcame its latest calamity with a 13-5 run to start of the second half, bringing them within four, but Temple’s lead ballooned to 12 after Xavier Pinson and Mitchell Smith’s issues inbounding the ball turned the ball over three times and gave the Owls two layups and an open three-pointer.

Pinson and starting point guard Geist each had four turnovers, including two from Pinson on consecutive inbounds under his own basket.

“When both your point guards have eight turnovers, that’s tough,” Martin said. “Because you have to give yourself a chance to win games and when turnovers lead to baskets that makes it hard. You can’t afford to have those type of letdowns with turnovers.”

Temple’s two big runs stemmed from a lopsided turnover battle, with the Owls forcing 15 turnovers while only turning the ball over five times, giving the Owls extra possessions used to pull away.

“We’re just not going to be a good team turning the ball over like that,” Puryear said. “There’s just no way around it. We’re just not going to beat good teams turning the ball over 15 times a game.”

The Tigers nearly clawed their way back when a triple from Geist brought Missouri within two with 14 seconds left, but Missouri’s failure to get late stops combined with another first-half meltdown was too much for the Tigers to overcome.

Missouri had one last gasp effort at the end of the half, bringing itself within two points four different times in the last three minutes. But after each effort, the Tigers failed to get a stop, as Temple iced the game with a layup from Ernest Aflakpui and free throws from Shizz Alston Jr.

A bright spot for Missouri was Mark Smith, who lead the Tigers with 19 points and shot 3-for-5 from behind the arc. Tilmon also added a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds and Puryear added 16 points.

Tilmon was able to return to form and play 30 minutes after being strapped to the bench with foul trouble in his last two games.

“Now my fingers are crossed to see it again,” Martin said of Tilmon’s performance. “That type of production is the type of guy I see in practice.”

The Tigers got little scoring from their bench, with a triple from Watson and six points from Mitchell Smith being the only production outside the starting five. Smith showed extended range by hitting his first career 3-pointer.

Next, Missouri faces Central Florida on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Mizzou Arena where they will look to halt a two-game losing skid.

Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com

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