The Maneater

Tigers trounced by Kentucky for third straight loss

Missouri was knocked down by a late first-half run and never recovered in its most lopsided loss of the season.

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If Kentucky’s first-half performance against Missouri in Columbia last month was any indicator, the Tigers should’ve been more than content with their opening frame numbers in the rematch in Lexington.

The starting five were shooting 53 percent from the field, and seniors Kassius Robertson and Jordan Barnett were supplying a steady contribution of outside production with a combined six 3s. The Wildcats just had to match their 18 points totaling just five field goals from the first 20 minutes at Mizzou Arena, and everything would be smooth sailing.

They didn’t.

Kentucky shot lights-out, the Tigers struggled to get help in their half-court offense aside from their two senior shooters and Missouri (18-11, 8-8 Southeastern Conference) fell into a double-digit hole that only snowballed into an 87-66 loss at Rupp Arena. It was the third straight defeat for a previously red-hot Mizzou team.

The Tigers were done in by uncharacteristically sharp shooting from Kentucky in the early minutes that never relented. Missouri’s own impressive shooting helped it recover from a 16-8 deficit on the way to a 24-21 lead at one point.

But the Wildcats were hitting everything at an unimaginable rate after what transpired in Columbia. They were too much to keep up with.

That creeping sense was accompanied by a quick 12-2 Kentucky burst. Instead of settling themselves down, the Tigers let that open the game up more.

By the time Kentucky hit its 10th field goal in its final 12 tries, it was halftime and the Wildcats led 44-32.

The Wildcats looked like an anomaly in the first half. They were 56 percent from the field. They were 8 for 10 from 3-point territory. They had been ranked 255th in the country from there by kenpom.com.

Days after surrendering 90 in an embarrassing overtime loss to Ole Miss, Missouri’s defense was done in again. All that was left was for Kentucky to turn it into the Tigers’ most lopsided loss of the season.

Characterized by lousy effort and a near-nonexistent presence on the floor after the break, Missouri faded to as many as 24 points down before it was all over. Even Brad Calipari, Kentucky head coach John Calipari’s son, came off the bench and pumped life into Rupp with a late 3 that added insult to injury for Missouri.

For the Tigers, overcoming what is now their second three-game rut of SEC play is a necessity. They will try to put an end to it in Nashville, Tennessee, on Tuesday, when their penultimate contest of the regular season pits them against Vanderbilt at 6 p.m.

Edited by Joe Noser | jnoser@themaneater.com

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