Missouri men's basketball struggles to put away Loyola

Missouri’s Caleb Grill and Loyola’s Chris Kuzemka battle for a rebound during the second half of Saturday’s game at Mizzou Arena in Columbia. (Associated Press)
Missouri’s Caleb Grill and Loyola’s Chris Kuzemka battle for a rebound during the second half of Saturday’s game at Mizzou Arena in Columbia. (Associated Press)

COLUMBIA -- For the second consecutive game, the Missouri Tigers used an extended scoring run to jump out to a 20-point lead. But they didn’t use this one to run away with the game.

Loyola Maryland responded to an 18-0 Tiger run with a 17-0 run to keep the game close, with Missouri winning 78-70 Saturday at Mizzou Arena.

“The consistency throughout the team is getting better game by game,” Missouri coach Dennis Gates said. “… We have endured more in terms of in-game experience than we did last season during this time.”

The Greyhounds took their only lead when Tyson Commander hit a 3-pointer with 18:35 left in the first half to make it 3-0.

Then the Tigers started separating.

A Noah Carter 3 off a Sean East assist tied the game with 18:12 left, then Nick Honor and East turned consecutive steals into layups to put the Tigers up 7-3.

Caleb Grill drove and dished to Carter for a left-wing 3 to go up 10-3 after a quick 10-0 run.

The Greyhounds were able to cut the lead to 13-9 after a Golden Dike free throw, but the Tigers were able to break away for the second consecutive game.

Carter hit a putback layup off an offensive rebound then turned a steal into an assist on a Tamar Bates reverse layup before Anthony Robinson dished an assist to Carter for a right-wing 3 to go up 20-9. Carter started the day 3-of-3 from deep to help build his game-high 18 points.

The run continued with Carter turning a steal into an opportunity for Robinson at the free throw line, where he hit one to help build his 10-point day.

Carter then hit a couple of free throws before Jesus Carralero Martin turned a steal into a dunk in transition to go up 24-9 with 11:11 left in the half.

Robinson then turned one of his five steals into a layup before East hit Grill for a left-corner 3 in transition to go up 29-9.

Honor finished the 18-0 run with two free throws to go ahead 31-9 with 7:19 left to play after the Tigers held the Greyhounds scoreless for 7:22.

“We just caught them in a moment where we were able to capitalize and get a lead,” Gates said. “… But we settled for 3s versus getting to the basket.”

The Greyhounds had an immediate answer, spreading the ball to five players for a 17-0 run, including 3s from D’Angelo Stines, David Brown and Deon Perry.

“They stopped turning the ball over,” Gates said of the quick reversal. “… They had second chance points in that moment, they also got to the free throw line and they made 3s once we leveled out a little bit.”

After the Loyola run, the Greyhounds had cut the Tiger lead to 33-26.

Grill ended a 6:14 Missouri scoreless stretch with a layup with 1:03 left in the half, then Carter hit two free throws to send the Tigers into halftime up 35-31.

“We didn’t win the middle 10 minutes of the game,” Gates said. “But we were able to provide ourselves with a spark in the second half to get up 10.”

The Tigers extended to a 40-31 lead to open the second half after an East layup, but the Greyhounds were able to cut it to 40-36 with 17:26 left to play.

The Greyhounds were able to stay within 10 points until an Honor 3 from the left wing in transition made the score 64-51 with 9:04 left. It was one of Honor’s three 3s to help build a 13-point performance.

East then decided to take on the Greyhounds on his own for a couple of minutes, driving and splitting defenders for a reverse layup before connecting on two free throws, hitting another layup and connecting on a pull-up baseline jumper. East scored eight consecutive Missouri points to create a 72-62 lead before a traditional three-point play from Carter extended the advantage to 75-62.

East then hit a free throw and a jump shot for the final three of his 17 points as Missouri held on for the eight-point win.

“It’s not perfect basketball,” Gates said. “But it’s basketball that ends up with a win as we continue to get better as a team.”

Along with his game-high point total, Carter led the Tigers with six rebounds to go with three steals, while East had a team-high four assists and three rebounds. Grill added four rebounds to his nine-point showing. Along with his 10 points and five steals, Robinson added five rebounds.

Missouri shot 26-of-58 (44.8 percent) overall, 11-of-28 (39.3 percent) from 3 and 15-of-24 (62.5 percent) at the free-throw line.

The Tigers (5-2) hit the road to play Pittsburgh at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the ACC/SEC Challenge.