The Maneater

Poor interior defense dooms Tigers in 74-62 loss to Mississippi State Bulldogs

The loss was the Tigers’ third straight and fourth in their last five games.

Graduate transfer Kassius Robertson watches his shot go in during the Showdown for Relief against Kansas on Oct. 22

Coming out of a timeout with 6:56 to go in the game and trailing by 6, Missouri knew it had to make a change if it wanted to beat the Mississippi State Bulldogs on the road. Head coach Cuonzo Martin switched to a zone, hoping to force the Bulldogs to take perimeter shots against a Tigers defense that had become porous on the interior.

Unfortunately for Martin and the Tigers, the defensive change failed to force the Bulldogs to take poor shots and could not fix Missouri’s problems on the offensive end.

Missouri (13-8, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) fell 74-62 to the Bulldogs in Starkville, Mississippi, on Saturday night, the team’s third straight loss and fourth in its last five SEC games.

Missouri jumped out to a 19-12 lead in the first 10 minutes of the first half, riding improved post play from freshman Jontay Porter and sporting a defense better than the team’s last two contests against Texas A&M and Auburn.

But the team’s interior defense was unable to hold up, allowing Mississippi State to take its first lead of the game with 5:06 left in the first half. While Missouri responded and took back the lead, the Bulldogs used a 5-0 run over the last minute of the opening period to tie the game at 31 going into the second half.

Missouri would not lead for the rest of the game. The Bulldogs opened the second half on a 6-0 run, culminating in a jumper from Abdul Ado, who had 12 points on the night. Mississippi State took just 16 3-pointers during the game, as the team used the combination of Ado and junior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon to get to the basket. The strategy worked, helping the Bulldogs score 46 points in the paint to just 34 for the Tigers.

While the 6-foot-11 Ado presented matchup problems for Missouri for much of the contest, it was Weatherspoon whom the Tigers simply couldn’t stop. The Canton, Mississippi, product and leading scorer for the Bulldogs had 20 points on 7 of 9 shooting, slashing to the basket and taking advantage of Missouri’s lack of depth at the guard position.

Graduate transfer and leading scorer Kassius Robertson had 20 points to lead Missouri offensively. Robertson, who averaged 15.5 points per game entering Saturday night’s contest, posted his second-straight game of 20-plus points scored.

Things will not get easier for Missouri next week. The team will travel to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide on Wednesday night. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2.

Edited by David Reynolds| dreynolds@themaneater.com

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