COLUMBIA — As the final seconds ran off the clock Tuesday night in a nearly-empty Mizzou Arena, players yelled, "Let's go! Let's go!"
Charleston Southern players.
The Buccaneers came to Columbia as 26-point underdogs and won, 68-60, on a night almost nothing went right for Missouri. Two Charleston Southern players celebrated at the foul line in front of the barren student section, arms folded across the white letters on their blue jerseys, posing for a team cameraman. The Buccaneers had a water fight in the visiting locker room and danced, with coach Barclay Radebaugh drenched in the middle.
"You never want to see that," Missouri redshirt junior forward Mitchell Smith said after the loss. "It's kind of like (former Oklahoma quarterback) Baker Mayfield slamming the flag in the field (at Ohio State), it's kind of disrespectful. I don't ever want to see a team celebrate on our floor, so that's why, when I come out, I'm trying to play as hard (as I can), my teammates are trying to play as hard (as they can), never see that again."
Smith finished with 10 points, all in the first half, and Jeremiah Tilmon had 15, all in the second half, but the Tigers' guards never got in rhythm. Dru Smith fouled out with two points with 8:46 to play, and Mark Smith shot 2-of-12 from the floor and 1-of-7 from three. Missouri held a two-point lead with 4:12 remaining but scored just one field goal after that point.
"I've been doing this a long time, that's probably one of the toughest ones," Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said, "because I felt it with 10 minutes to go in the second half. Just didn't feel right, we didn't have the right flow, the right momentum.
"We were just a step slow. We couldn't get over the hump."
The Tigers (4-4) failed to solve any of the offensive issues that plagued them in the Hall of Fame Classic even with a week off. Missouri allowed the second-worst 3-point shooting team in all of Division I, a team that came in shooting 21.6 percent from deep, to finish 10-of-22, including 8-of-11 in the second half. Duncan LeXander, who entered the game 2-of-18 from deep, shot 5-of-8 and finished with a game-high 17 points.
"Yeah, we play a lot of Power-Five opponents, and I don't even want to know my record against Power-Five," an emotional Radebaugh said. "This is our third guarantee game that we've won in 15 years. They're hard. I mean they're very difficult to win. You're fighting so many odds, the travel, just to get here, you know, just to get into Nashville, two-hour delay, St. Louis, and then a two-hour bus ride over. But we remained thankful and positive through all that, didn't practice yesterday because of the travel, so that ended up being a good decision. And we're just thankful."
The offense's struggles are no longer limited to what the NCAA selection committee would call 'Quadrant 1' opponents, roughly a neutral-court game against an RPI top-50 team. ESPN's Basketball Power Index had the Buccaneers at No. 315 before Tuesday's game; Ken Pomeroy had them at No. 313. Missouri was No. 77 in BPI entering the game, and No. 43 in KenPom. Those numbers will surely drop.
Martin started Xavier Pinson in the place of Javon Pickett in an effort to reverse the recent trend of slow starts on offense, but it didn't work. Missouri didn't score in the first four minutes of the game and the Buccaneers led 12-3 with 12:26 left in the half.
Tilmon agreed the team's energy felt off, but said the locker room after the loss was full of "positive talk about moving on to the next team."
The Tigers shot 4-of-26 (15.4 percent) from 3-point range, their worst performance of the season that now includes five games in which the team has shot worse than 25 percent from beyond the arc. Missouri is shooting 25.4 percent from deep through eight games, the worst mark through eight games in program history.
The issues were glaring on defense, particularly in the rotations that frequently left Buccaneers players with open looks from the corners from both open play and on in-bounds plays.
"Being a low D-I is often very difficult, because you have to go out and play these guarantee games," Radebaugh said. "To get one just pumps life into our program, pumps life into our players and our fans and our school. I'm very, very thankful."
Missouri was on the wrong end of a program-defining win for Charleston Southern, a team that won its first postseason game in its history a year ago against Florida Atlantic. It's up to the team if this is a season-defining moment for them, too.
Missouri plays Saturday at Temple (6-1). Game time at 6:30 p.m. on ESPNU.