By Lucas Owens
Winning did not come easy for the No. 18 Missouri Tigers in their Saturday Matchup against the No. 10 Alabama Crimson Tide at Mizzou Arena, but a win is a win.
The Crimson Tide came into Saturday with a 10-0 record in SEC play. Despite losing by double digits against Oklahoma a week ago in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, Alabama is still highly thought of as one of the top teams in the nation and a team that under coach Nate Oats could make a run come March. Despite being slightly undersized, Alabama more than makes up for its size in its perimeter shooting and defense.
Come halftime, it looked like Missouri was going to easily run away with it. Mark Smith, in one of his first starts in a long time, had 12 points and went five for 10 from the field. Dru Smith also had 13 points and two assists in the half. However, it was the defense that made the difference for the Tigers and led them to a 44-28 lead.
That margin only widened to start the second half, eventually leading to Missouri taking a 22-point lead. Past that point though, the Tigers scored just four points. Alabama, on the other hand, scored 23.
The wild run Alabama went on was due to a lot of things, but paramount was obviously the shooting for the Missouri Tigers. Missouri shot 19 for 35 in the first half, but just nine for 27 in the second. Even more alarming was its three-point field goal percentage, at just one for 10 in the latter frame. Dru Smith went one for eight, with three missed three-point attempts. Mark Smith’s performance was even more alarming, with no points and three missed three-point attempts. Kobe Brown was the lone bright spot shooting wise in the second half, scoring nine of the Tigers’ 24 second half points.
The Tigers, thanks to some clutch plays on defense by Mitchell Smith and free throws at the end of the game from Xavier Pinson, were able to pull out the win, but their performance in the second half was still alarming.
“Our guys looked at the score instead of finishing the game on the floor,” said Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin.
For Alabama, Jaden Shackelford was probably the biggest highlight of what goes down as a tough loss. The guard had 15 points on four for 12 shooting, but his one for four from 3 is not what you look for. John Petty Jr. also was serviceable, having 11 points on four for 12 shooting, but three for six from 3. The Crimson Tide need to clean up its turnovers and play consistent all game if it wants to keep winning games in the SEC, as it has done for the past month or so.
As for Missouri, the obvious thing to look at is its production in the second half. Finishing games will be important down the stretch, and there are not many teams that you can give up a 22 point lead to and still come out on top against.
Looking ahead, Missouri now jumps to 13-3 on the season, and 6-3 in SEC play, good for second in the conference. The Tigers face Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss. on Wednesday, Feb. 10. Alabama continues the road against South Carolina on Tuesday, Feb. 9 in Columbia, S.C. The Crimson Tide fall to 15-5 on the year, and still leads the SEC with 10-1 in conference.
Edited by Emma Moloney