After a game like the one Missouri had at Kansas State on Saturday, one would expect the Tigers to come roaring out of the gates in their next game, using that opportunity to show just how good of a team they can be.
To say that didn't happen Wednesday night would be a massive understatement. Texas Tech defeated the Tigers in every facet of the game, resulting in a 78-62 victory for the Red Raiders. It dropped the Tigers to a disappointing 9-8, and more importantly, 1-3 in Big 12 play.
"I felt that after K-State we'd feel that (urgency) and I thought we'd come out and have a better effort," Missouri coach Quin Snyder said. "That obviously wasn't the case."
Senior guard Jason Conley took it a step further, suggesting the Tigers did not exhibit the energy necessary to emerge with a victory.
"I don't think our effort as a team was there tonight," he said. "We just have to keep fighting back."
For a stretch in the first half, the Tigers did just that. After falling behind by as many as 10 points, Missouri charged back with a 7-2 run to cut their deficit to 36-34. Tech hit four free throws to extend its lead back to 40-34 at halftime. Missouri hit two free throws to open the second half but would get no closer.
"It's obviously disconcerting to see how we played," Snyder said. "You can't play with two or three guys playing with energy and guys taking plays off defensively."
As they have after losses throughout the season, both Snyder and the Tigers pointed to defensive shortcomings as the reason for their downfall. That has been the case more often than not, but Missouri also was dreadful at times offensively Wednesday. In the second half, the Tigers had a 12-minute stretch in which they scored no field goals, converting nine times from the free-throw line instead. In that drought, they gave the ball away seven times. They made just one of 10 shots to open the second half, opening the door for a game-changing Tech rally.
After sophomore guard Thomas Gardner hit two free throws to cut the Tech lead to 44-40, the Red Raiders used a 16-3 run to take a commanding lead. While Missouri managed its points on two free throws by Gardner and a third by junior guard Jimmy McKinney, Tech scored in just about every way possible. It found hole in the Tiger defense and knocked down midrange jumpers. It drove to the basket and found openings inside for easy layups. Devonne Giles' three-point play at 8:44 pushed the Raiders to 60 points, left the Tigers hopelessly behind and the Mizzou Arena crowd frustrated.
"We're going back to what we were doing when we first started having games," McKinney said, referring to Missouri's early-season defensive troubles.
"I don't know," he said. "I can't tell you that. I wish we wouldn't, but we are."
Snyder said a lack of unity hurt the Tigers this time around.
"We need to understand how badly we need each other on both ends of the floor," he said. "I don't know that our focus is always on all those little things -- I know it's not. That to me is taking ownership and the identity of our team."
Unlike Conley, Snyder did not go as far as suggesting Missouri's effort was not where it needed to be. Sophomore forward Linas Kleiza, whose 10 points and 12 rebounds earned him a quiet double-double, said he agreed with Conley wholeheartedly.
"Of course our effort was poor," he said. "You just don't lose by whatever we lost by if you give effort. We're a good team if we give our hearts out…
"It felt like we were just dead out there."
After the difficulty of losing a conference home game, the Tigers will need to right the ship immediately. The players seemed hopeful and believed they could manage it, but Snyder said something else has to come first.
"Our team needs to feel the urgency," Snyder said. "I certainly feel it…
"There's no choice but to change it. Guys have to look inside and really take more ownership of what those things are. To a man, I think they know what we're talking about."
Perpetual motion: Texas Tech came into the game with the best offense in the conference, averaging 82.9 points per game. After losing standout scorer Andre Emmett to graduation, Tech responded by spreading the offensive responsibilities around. Coming into the game, five Red Raiders averaged in double figures; four reached that mark against the Tigers. Guard Ronald Ross led Tech with 22, while Giles and Jarrius Jackson chipped in 17 and Martin Zeno had 16.
The motion offense, a staple of Tech coach Bob Knight's teams, was in full effect on Wednesday. The Red Raiders continually found open looks, did not settle for 3-pointers and cashed in more often than not.
"I'm pretty sure they shot over 50 percent," McKinney said. "It looked like it."
They did. Tech finished 30-of-58 from the field, a 52 percent mark. That mark is the best an opponent has managed against the Tigers since upstart Davidson hit 60 percent of its attempts in its 84-81 upset on Nov. 19.
"They're always moving," Conley said. "It's just kind of hard to guard when they're always moving for 35 seconds. But our talk wasn't there tonight."
Snyder pointed to that as well, suggesting Missouri failed to communicate consistently on the defensive end.
"We've created our own adversity," he said. "Like talking, for instance, talking on defense. At some point, for us to be able to guard a team like that, you've got to talk the whole game. What part of you is holding that back? That's what we need to get to."
Missouri was a respectable 22-of-53 from the field, a 42 percent mark. The Tigers again struggled from the perimeter, converting just 4-of-20 3-point shots, or 20 percent. Knight said he was "really pleased" with the Red Raiders' defensive performance.
"It was obviously a pretty good game for us," he said. "Now we just go on."
No Brownout of hope: One of the few positives coming out of Wednesday's game was the performance of freshman forward Marshall Brown, who led the Tigers with 12 points. He made 4-of-8 shots from the field and was Missouri's best threat from the perimeter, converting 2-of-5 3-pointers.
"Marshall is a guy that's playing with that focus I'm talking about," Snyder said. "We've had other guys throughout the year have it. It's important to him, and you see it in his play."
The output was a career high for Brown, who had averaged less than five points in the past three games. Freshman point guard Jason Horton also set two career highs on the night: in assists, and in turnovers. Horton had a game-high seven assists -- more than half of Missouri's 13 -- but also had a career-worst five turnovers.
Pestered by an experienced player like Ross most of the evening, Horton struggled to maintain a handle on the basketball. He finished with five points, four rebounds and two steals.
"Horton's been making great progress," Snyder said. "Tonight, he looked like a freshman. He was bothered by the game."
Deja ‘Zou: Knight had mixed reviews on his first trip to Mizzou Arena. After suggesting it was a "really nice place," he brought some of his memories into play.
"Looks a lot like Hearnes," he said. "Same color, same size. Goddamn, got a lot of money here to build a duplicate."
That last line left the assembled media chuckling and gave Knight an opportunity to cut his postgame interview short. As he moved toward the door, he offered one final thought.
"Cleaner than Hearnes," he said.
Mike's musings: This is exactly what the Tigers did not need. After inching within a basket in the closing moments of the first half, it looked like Missouri made have a strong second half coming up. That never materialized, and Tech took advantage of every mistake, just as you would expect from a well-coached team. … Another observation that could bring positive results down the line: Gardner continually attacked the basket in the second half, which he -- and the Tigers, for that matter -- have done little of recently. That trend earned the Tigers some easy points at the line, but it didn't last. It needs to for Missouri to have success in the coming weeks,
The turnover problem is just maddening. Tech ended up with 11 steals on Missouri's 19 turnovers, leaving eight plays when the Tigers simply threw the ball away. For a team with a freshman point guard and nobody else that can give quality minutes behind him, this should be expected at times. But 19 turnovers are too many, no matter who you are and who you're playing. … Prediction review: I called for a 71-68 Tech win, so I both overestimated the Tigers and underestimated the Red Raiders. I thought this would be the kind of game that goes back and forth, with one team seizing command in the final minutes. It wasn't, obviously, and now Missouri has a mountain to climb if it wants to reach the postseason.