COLUMBIA -- The Missouri Tigers have had to face consistent issues through the Southeastern Conference portion of the schedule. Again and again, the Tigers have not risen to the task.
The Tigers dropped their 11th consecutive game Saturday night at Mizzou Arena, losing 75-51 to the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the lowest offensive total the Tigers have scored during tenure of coach Dennis Gates.
“Mississippi State is one of the most physical teams in the country, the most physical team in our conference,” Gates said. “I thought our guys withstood that in the first half.”
But while the Tigers faced their usual problems through the game -- the Bulldogs outrebounded them 39-31, outscored Missouri in the paint 36-26 and scored 14 points off turnovers to Missouri’s four -- some new issues emerged Saturday.
Mississippi State forced 20 turnovers, including 15 steals, and held the Tigers to just 16-of-47 (34 percent) shooting overall and 3-of-18 (16.7 percent) on 3-pointers, including an 0-of-8 performance after halftime.
“I credit Mississippi State because 15 of those 20 were steals, they were live balls,” Gates said of the turnovers. “I credit them for playing a very physical game in a way that they didn’t foul as much as I know that they could have.”
The Tigers fought to stay close through the first half, going into halftime trailing only 30-26 after a 6-0 Tiger run closed the segment, but the Bulldogs began to run away after the break.
Shakeel Moore, one of two Bulldogs to connect on more 3-pointers than the entire Missouri team, hit one from the left corner to open the second half, then he hit another while Tolu Smith III and Cameron Matthews each connected on layups to extend the Bulldog lead to 40-28.
Dashawn Davis hit a 3 from the right corner to start a 10-0 run after two Curt Lewis free throws to create a 50-30 lead. Lewis hit a layup and two free throws for Missouri’s only points in the first 7:30 of the second half.
Missouri cut the lead to 55-38 after a 6-0 run comprised of a Tamar Bates layup, two Nick Honor free throws and a Noah Carter layup, but the Bulldogs extended back to a 68-40 advantage with a 13-2 run to follow.
Bates began attacking the basket, scoring six of the Tigers’ final 11 points to reach 11 for the game and extend his streak of double-digit performances to 14. Bates ended the game with a transition dunk with :08 left on the clock to reach double figures.
“Tamar has been one of our most consistent players,” Gates said. “… I think the mental part of it, when you are physically challenged the way Mississippi State physically challenges you, you have to be able to regroup at the free throw line. … He’s entitled to an off night.”
Honor led the Tigers with 15 points, once again leading the team in attempts overall and from 3 in the absence of leading scorer Sean East.
“I know I’m gonna be a lot more on the ball, trying to get people to their spots while looking for my own shots,” Honor said of his increased role in East’s absence. “… I just had to step up and shoot the ball like coach wants me to.”
But Honor and Bates combined to shoot just 7-of-21 overall and 3-of-11 from 3 while allowing 10 turnovers.
“For us to win this game, we needed Nick and Tamar to have certain stats,” Gates said. “You can’t win games when your two best players available have more turnovers than field goals made.”
The teams went back and forth early with Mississippi State creating an early 5-2 lead before Carter hit Jordan Butler for a layup and Butler made two free throws to put the Tigers up 6-5 with 16:36 left.
Josh Hubbard hit one of his four 3-pointers to give the Bulldogs the lead back for good at 8-5, one of three lead changes all coming in the first seven minutes.
Missouri was playing catch-up the rest of the game as Mississippi State built an 18-10 lead before the Tigers cut it to 19-15 after Honor hit a step-back 3 from the left wing, one of his three 3s as the guard was the only Tiger to connect from deep.
Mississippi State (16-8, 5-6 SEC) built back out to a 30-20 advantage with 1:51 left before halftime, but Honor hit another 3 off a Jesus Carralero Martin assist and then connected on a pull-up 3 from the top of the key to cut the lead to four going into the break.
“The first half, I truly believe our guys went out and competed to the best of their ability,” Gates said. “We fought, we fought our hearts out, we fought. The second half, we tried to fight, we just ran out of gas.”
Noah Carter led the Tigers with seven rebounds and four assists, while Bates had six boards. Aidan Shaw and Connor Vanover were the only Tigers to play who did not commit a turnover.
“Not once have our guys complained about the circumstance or the cards that have been dealt our way,” Gates said. “I’ve heard not one complaint from our kids, our staff, our program. The most important thing is these guys are competing against each other every single day to get each other better.”
Missouri (8-16, 0-11 SEC) will have a full week to try to figure out what it can in practice before returning to game action at 7:30 p.m. next Saturday at Mississippi.