Takeaways from Missouri’s surprising showing at the SEC Tournament

Mizzou picked up its first neutral site win over an SEC opponent under Kim Anderson before falling to Ole Miss in the quarterfinals.
Maneater File Photo

As sophomore guard Terrence Phillips exited the game in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament against Auburn for the final time, he embraced his coach and shared a long, emotional hug.

It was an embrace that displayed simultaneous sadness and gratitude.

Phillips fouled out with 5:40 remaining and thought it might be the last time he would exit the court with coach Kim Anderson as the Tigers’ leader. Before the SEC Tournament, Missouri announced that it had asked Anderson to step down after the season.

Phillips’ goodbye was premature, though.

Sophomore forward Kevin Puryear gave Anderson one more day as coach of the Tigers when he hit a 3-point shot as time expired in overtime in Nashville, Tennessee. Puryear’s shot gave Missouri an 86-83 victory after the team fought back to tie the game in regulation.

Smiles spread across Missouri players’ faces as they experienced a small sliver of March Madness, upsetting an Auburn team it failed to beat twice in the regular season.

But the next time Phillips shared a hug with Anderson, it was a timely goodbye.

That embrace came when Phillips fouled out against Ole Miss the next day. He was one of three Tigers to foul out against the Rebels as Missouri fell to Ole Miss 86-74.

Here is what you need to know from the Tigers’ time in the tournament:

Puryear shines as offensive catalyst Puryear’s 2016-17 season was filled with inconsistency. He often failed to put together consistent offensive performances.

That changed in Nashville.

Puryear put together his best offensive performance as a Tiger with 30 points against Auburn. He shot five of nine from the 3-point line, one of which won Missouri the game in overtime.

He didn’t muster that same offensive production against Ole Miss, but he still scored 15 points.

This could be Frankie Hughes’ team, after all

Freshman Frankie Hughes started the 2016-17 campaign in historic fashion, becoming the first Tiger in program history to score 20 or more points in the first two games of his freshman year.

Things didn’t go as swimmingly for Hughes for much of the rest of the season, however. He struggled to score, particularly in SEC play, where he averaged just 4.9 points per game.

Hughes did somewhat right the ship toward the end of the year, as he had 22 points on Feb. 25 at Ole Miss and seemed to restore the shooting form that brought him so much success earlier in the season.

Perhaps Hughes’ most significant contribution came in the round one matchup against Auburn, where he had eight points and two threes made. No shot was bigger for him all season than the three he hit with 1.8 seconds remaining in the game to send the game to overtime.

It remains to be seen whether Hughes will be able to carry over momentum from the SEC Tournament into next season, but for now, Mizzou fans should be pleased with his re-emergence as a key contributor for the team going forward.

A neutral site win against an SEC team. Is a true SEC road win next?

Wednesday night’s win over Auburn was Mizzou’s first and only victory over an SEC team away from Mizzou Arena under Anderson. The team still hasn’t won a true road game over an SEC opponent since Jan. 28, 2014, against Arkansas.

Could a true SEC road win be in the cards? Mathematically, it’s highly unlikely that the Tigers go another whole year without winning a single SEC road game. After all, Mizzou lost eight of its 18 conference games by 10 points or less and 12 by 12 points or less and were rarely completely dominated this season.

Nonetheless, with so many uncertainties surrounding next year’s squad, most notably who the next coach will be, Mizzou will have to just wait and see if it can finally do away with its painful road woes.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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