Tigers rolled by Tide, 70-60
Missouri dropped its third-straight conference game.
Jan. 17, 2019
For Missouri, it was too little too late.
Sophomore forward Jeremiah Tilmon turned and threw down a powerful slam with nine minutes left, but the Tigers still trailed by six – the same margin they trailed by at halftime.
Both Tilmon and Missouri (9-6, 0-3 SEC) found offensive firepower in the second half, but a sluggish start proved too much to overcome in a 70-60 loss to Alabama (11-5, 2-2 SEC) Wednesday night.
Every time Missouri started to creep back into striking distance, it got in its own way.
The Tigers were able to improve their offense in the second half and looked to be on track after a 4-point play by sophomore guard Mark Smith and a 3-point play by freshman forward Torrence Watson pulled Missouri within four with 16:29 left.
But Tilmon overthrew senior guard Jordan Geist out of the post for a turnover on the next possession and Alabama scored two straight fast break buckets, immediately turning the Tigers’ momentum and forcing Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin to call a timeout.
After a Geist layup cut Alabama’s lead to nine with 13:05 left, Missouri looked to make things even closer after a missed 3 by Alabama guard Avery Johnson Jr. Instead, sophomore forward K.J. Santos and Smith fought each other for the rebound, forcing it out of bounds and giving the ball back to the Tide.
“When you’re fighting to get a win, you’re so focused on getting the win and now you play tight instead of playing carefree and winning the basketball game,” Martin said.
Missouri was still able to keep the Alabama lead around six for most of the second half, with the Tigers inching close but failing to get timely stops. A corner 3 from Alabama guard Kira Lewis Jr. gave the Tide a 9-point lead with 2:24 left and finally put Missouri to bed, still leaving it winless in conference play.
After two fouls in the game’s first eight minutes, Tilmon looked to be in for another night on the bench, but Martin sent him back into the game in the first half and Tilmon responded by finishing the game without picking up another foul. Martin said he will continue to put Tilmon back in the game with foul trouble this season.
“It doesn’t do us any good with him sitting on the bench,” Martin said. “He has to learn and he has to go through it.”
Tilmon was largely ineffective for the first 25 minutes, but finished strong with all 8 of his points in the last 15:22. He also had five of his seven rebounds in the second period.
As much as Tilmon showed signs of progress with his foul trouble Wednesday, Martin said he still has another step to master before it’s hardly an issue.
“Now he has to get to the point where that’s not in the back of his mind and he’s a part of the game,” Martin said. “I think he has to let loose.”
Smith turned in another impressive performance. He started the game with a deep triple from the top of the key and hit another 3 a couple minutes later. The sophomore who is second in the SEC in 3-point percentage shot 4-for-9 from long range and led Missouri with 13 points.
Apart from Smith, Missouri's offense looked stagnant in the first half. The Tigers shot 35.7 percent from the field and didn’t attempt a single free throw in the first half.
Another problem for Missouri was a lack of production from the bench. The Tigers extended their rotation after early fouls by Tilmon and played 11 players in the first half, but Alabama’s bench outscored Missouri 33-15.
Alabama’s leading scorer was Johnson Jr., who scored a season-high 14 and sophomore forward Alex Reese followed with 7 points.
“They know they’re important,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said in reference to his non-starters. “We feel with our bench, if they’re playing right, those guys could be starting for a lot of teams.”
Next, Missouri travels to Texas A&M (7-8, 1-3 SEC) on Saturday looking for its first conference victory.
Edited by Adam Cole | firstname.lastname@example.org