The Missouri Tigers’ offense has been a sore spot throughout the early going of the 2021-22 college men’s basketball season, and it doesn’t look like it’s getting better anytime soon.
Burdened by a horrendous first-half display that essentially took it out of the contest early, Mizzou (4-4) lost 66-45 at Liberty (4-3) on Thursday night in Lynchburg, Virginia.
“The locker room was pretty quiet,” Missouri guard Amari Davis said following the loss. “We were mad that we lost. You know, any game on the road we come to win and it’s a lot. Like Coach said, you gotta look in the mirror, you know, see what you did wrong and not point fingers at anybody else. I think everybody’s just in there thinking about what they could’ve done right and the things that they did wrong and where we’re going from there.”
The Tigers made 14 of 49 (28.6%) shots from the field. They entered the first road game of the season ranked 315th in the country in three-point shooting, and those woes continued: They made 3 of 19 (15.8%) attempts from deep.
The Flames torched Mizzou on their three-pointers, making 11 of 27 threes (40.7%). Guard Darius McGhee had five of those triples. He finished with 20 points, four assists and five steals.
In what has become a startling trend this season, Missouri dug itself a big hole. By the under-16 timeout, the Tigers were already trailing Liberty 11-3. Missouri missed its first four shots from the floor, while the Flames made three three-pointers in the opening minutes.
“We couldn’t really get into a flow offensively,” Mizzou coach Cuonzo Martin said.
Mizzou did not hit a shot from the field until the 12-minute mark of the first half, on its eighth attempt, a putback bucket from Kobe Brown. Brown was the only MU player to make a field goal in the first half. Even with the basket, the Tigers trailed by 11 points. And the deficit would only grow.
Martin’s squad entered halftime down 35-14. It marked the program’s fewest points in a first half since a loss to Kansas State on Nov. 23, 2015, when 14 points were all the Tigers could get in by the break on that night as well.
Mind you, Mizzou would have only had 11 points in Thursday’s first half if not for a weird foul that sent Davis to the free-throw line for three shots after the clock was rewinded from zero.
The Tigers shot 3 of 21 (14.3%) from the field and missed all seven of their three-point attempts in the opening frame.
“We just got to get open guys the ball, honestly,” Brown said. “We had open guys in the first half, but we just couldn’t give them the ball.”
They also committed 15 turnovers in the half, which led to 12 points for Liberty. On the evening, the Tigers committed 19 turnovers.
“There was a couple of lazy passes in fastbreaks, you know, guys leading too much to the rim on the passes,” Davis said when asked what led to all the turnovers. “Some of the other ones, we wasn’t running as far as we could on the transition. And then in the half court, I’ll say certain looks that were open, I think the defense kind of knew where we wanted to go with the ball, so they were doing a good job taking that away at first.”
Missouri made more shots from the field in the first four minutes of the second half than it had in the entire first half. The first-half deficit, though, was too steep for Missouri to overcome.
“I thought it was a better approach to our team and better focus level in the second half,” Martin said.
As has been the case for most of this season, Brown was one of the few bright spots for Mizzou. Though he had some trouble with turnovers in the first half, he finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, along with three steals and two assists, for his third double-double of the year.
The Tigers are back at Mizzou Arena on Tuesday to face Eastern Illinois at 7 p.m. Central time.