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Saturday’s loss knocks Missouri down the ladder for SEC Tournament

Heading into Saturday afternoon’s game in Knoxville, Tenn., the Missouri Tigers could have been seeded anywhere from No. 2-6 for this week’s Southeastern Conference Tournament.

After Saturday’s 64-62 loss at Tennessee, and a handful of important wins by other conference teams, Missouri fell to the bottom of the possibilities.

“Tough loss for our guys,” Missouri head coach Frank Haith said. “We didn’t compete on the defensive end. We had some mental mistakes.”

Missouri was hoping for a double-bye in the tournament, which would have put the Tigers into Friday’s quarterfinals and needing just three wins to take the title.

Instead, the loss means Missouri (22-9 overall, 11-7 SEC) will play at 9 p.m. Thursday (KMIZ-TV) against the winner of Wednesday night’s first-round game between 11th-seeded Texas A&M (7-11, 14-17) and 14th-seeded Auburn (3-15, 9-22).

Missouri played Texas A&M and Auburn once each during the conference season, not surprisingly winning the game Feb. 2 against Auburn (91-77) at Mizzou Arena and falling on the road Feb. 7 at Texas A&M (70-68).

Five Missouri players scored in double figures in the win against Auburn, led by Keion Bell’s 24 points and 23 from Earnest Ross. Missouri dominated the game inside, outscoring Auburn 42-20 in the paint.

Missouri’s next game was the contest at Texas A&M and it had an all-to-familiar ending to road games this season for the Tigers.

Missouri took a 68-67 lead on a 3-pointer by Laurence Bowers with 53 seconds left. Alex Oriakhi of the Tigers then got a steal with 35 seconds remaining, only to see Phil Pressey overthrow a pass out of bounds with 24 seconds left.

Fabyon Harris of Texas A&M took advantage of the mistake, drilling a 3-pointer to give the Aggies a 2-point lead with 12 seconds left. Pressey missed a 3-pointer with seven seconds remaining before Bell missed a jumper after getting an offensive rebound to end it.

With a win Thursday, Missouri would advance to Friday’s quarterfinal against third-seeded Mississippi (23-8, 12-6). That game would start at 9 p.m.

The Tigers were 17-0 at Mizzou Arena this season, 2-8 in road contests and 3-1 in neutral-site games in the regular season.

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