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Losing streak continues for MU

Losing streak continues for MU

January 11th, 2017 by Andrew Hodgson in Sports

Auburn's T.J. Dunans fights his way between Missouri's Kevin Puryear (left) and Jordan Barnett during the second half of Tuesday's game at Mizzou Arena.

Photo by Associated Press /News Tribune.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Kim Anderson is frustrated.

He's frustrated Missouri men's basketball has lost seven straight and its first three Southeastern Conference games. He's frustrated for his players, who he said has put an "unbelievable" amount of time practicing shots. And he was frustrated again during Missouri's 77-72 loss Tuesday to Auburn at Mizzou Arena.

Missouri (5-10, 0-3 SEC) shot 39.5 percent on field goals prior to Tuesday's game, good for 326th out of 351 Division I teams. The Tigers also ranked dead last in 3-point shooting percentage, shooting 25.9 percent.

The team's field goal percentage rank will take another hit after Tuesday's game, where Missouri shot 22-of-68 from the field (32.4 percent). The Tigers started 2-of-12 and were 12-of-38 at halftime.

"We've put in an unbelievable amount of time shooting the basketball, especially over break," Anderson said. "You know, I just think we don't have a lot of confidence right now and we're not real tough mentally right now. I think we could be, but there's not a whole lot you can do from a motivational standpoint. You get in the gym and keep shooting, it doesn't do any good to yell at them and go, 'Hey quit missing shots.' They know they're missing shots."

Three-point shooting was better for Missouri compared to its season average with a 27.8 3-point shooting percentage (5-of-18). The five made was only one fewer than the team made last Saturday's 71-66 loss at Georgia, a game Missouri took twice as many 3-point attempts (36) to tie a school record.

Still, Anderson said 3-point shooting could have been better.

"The other day with 36 3s was way too many," Anderson said. "I thought tonight was better but I sure wish we would've made more. I thought we had some good looks. I can't think of a bad 3 that we took, I'm sure there's one or two in there but we had good looks, we had guys open we just didn't make shots."

Even with the shooting struggles, Missouri still led Auburn 35-34 at halftime and 44-38 with 15:21 left in the game.

Part of the reason the Tigers led was offensive rebounding. Missouri finished with 25 in the game, 12 in the first half.

Second-chance points weren't as easy to come by as many Missouri possessions involved multiple missed shots in a row before Auburn would regain possession. Missouri had 21 only second-chance points on the night.

"To have 25 offensive rebounds, just tells you the kind of effort those kids are still giving despite of the fact that their record is 5-10," Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said.

Yet, like in Missouri's previous two SEC games this season, it could not stop Auburn from making a run and eventually pulling away.

Auburn took the lead with 14:20 left in the game on a Bryce Brown 3-pointer in the midst of a 7-0 Auburn run. Missouri was able to stay within five until the 5:25 mark when freshman guard Frankie Hughes' layup tied the game at 57. Missouri went on a 5-0 run later in the half to tie it with 2:24 left on senior center Russell Woods' free throw.

Still, Missouri was not able to regain the lead. Nine seconds after Woods tied it, Auburn freshman guard Mustapha Heron drained a 3-pointer from the corner to kill Missouri's momentum.

"Whether it was Jared Harper or Ronnie Johnson, getting that middle ball screen and driving and getting to the rim, we have enough shooters out there that makes it difficult when you set that top ball screen with those quick guards," Pearl said of Auburn's ability to snuff out Missouri's momentum. "If you come off we have shooters. If you don't come off our guards could get to the rim. That's what I was trying to play call late."

With 1:28 left, Heron's jumper helped put Missouri away for good. It was a game he was not even sure he would play in.

"Mustapha went down at practice yesterday at Auburn, and went down pretty good, ankle. And he did it as he was jumping, not landing but it really hurt, and he hurt himself pretty good. Iced and taped and we weren't sure he was going to play," Pearl said. "And his dad, who is in the corrections business, he's a big tough guy, he told Mustapha to take up all the tough pills, tape that thing up and play."

Missouri's Jordan Barnett led all scorers with a career-high 20 points, sophomore guard Terrence Phillips had 12 points and sophomore guard Jordan Geist had 10.

Sophomore guard K.J. Walton had 13 of Missouri's 51 rebounds, while sophomore forward Kevin Puryear had nine and Woods had eight.

Auburn blocked a Mizzou Arena-record 12 shots in the game.

"We weren't necessarily worried about that," Barnett said. "We just figured we could finish in there, we didn't account for them being tall and athletic. They got to block shots, it is what it is. "

Missouri plays Saturday afternoon at Mississippi. Game time is 2:30 p.m.