Mizzou’s comeback fails in South Carolina | Mizzou Sports News


Unlike the blowouts that defined Missouri’s listless season, the Tigers started March with something different on Tuesday: a suspenseful ending.

Mizzou fell 14 points behind in South Carolina but kept things close enough to create rare drama in the final minutes at Colonial Life Arena. But the result was not new.

The Tigers came one point clear with 1:34 to go, but South Carolina did just enough from there to wrap up a 73-69 victory and extend United’s losing streak to six, the longest of coach Cuonzo Martin’s five seasons.

“I think we did a good job of maintaining our competitive spirit to give ourselves a chance to win,” Martin said.

But the Tigers are nearly out of luck to end a lost season on a high note. In the penultimate game of the regular season, Mizzou fell to 10-20 and 4-13 in the Southeastern Conference. This is only the sixth 20-game losing season in Mizzou history. Three of the previous five came under Martin’s predecessor, Kim Anderson, who announced his retirement on Tuesday after five years in Pittsburg State’s Division II.

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After losing to Mizzou twice last season, South Carolina’s Frank Martin didn’t take Tuesday’s victory for granted.

“Hats off to Cuonzo,” said Martin, whose Gamecocks improved to 18-11 and 9-8 in the SEC. “He’s become one of the guys I respect the most in this business. After the year they’ve had injury-wise, getting these youngsters to play as hard as they play and be as good defensively has created some major issues for us today. We couldn’t commit any offence. But somehow we found a way to win the game and that’s what matters.

Already locked in the 12 or 13 seed in next week’s SEC tournament, the Tigers host last-place Georgia in Saturday’s regular-season finale.

Javon Pickett was Mizzou’s top offensive threat again, finishing with a career-high 23 points. Kobe Brown came out of his dip with 19 points, including the Tigers’ last nine points as they struggled to keep pace late.

For the first time in his last 40 games, Brown didn’t score a field goal in Saturday’s loss to Louisiana State, prompting a challenge from his head coach.

“Just from the perspective of, ‘Come on, man. You are a top talent,” Martin of MU recalled on Tuesday. “’Guys can’t knock the ball out of your hands. If they hit the ball, there should be blood somewhere. It can’t happen as physically as you are, as strong as you are, like a guy coming down to make plays. These things can’t happen, especially when you have over 70 starts at this level.

Brown and Pickett carried the Tigers’ comeback on their shoulders Tuesday night as Brown scored on three straight possessions in the final minute. But down five with five seconds left, the junior striker knocked him down with an errant pass to all but preserve Gamecock’s victory. Two early fouls limited Brown to just seven minutes in the first half.

“I have to go out and give the team more from the start,” he said.

On Monday, South Carolina’s Martin noted that Mizzou can be tough to beat in low-scoring matches, which he described as “grinders.” It’s a nice way to describe a first half that featured as much offensive efficiency as a half-court shooting contest. The first 20 minutes were awkward throughout, with 14 combined turnovers, 19 fouls and 12 missed lay-ups and dunks.

“It was a rock fight,” said USC’s Martin.

The Tigers didn’t connect on their first field goal until a Trevon Brazile dunk after the first media timeout and for the half shot just 3 of 10 on layups and just 32% in total – while returning the ball nine times.

South Carolina took a 23-15 lead with a 10-1 run midway through the half, powered by a jumping streak from Jermaine Cousiner. Down nine in the final seconds, Mizzou called a timeout to establish one last possession and beat the buzzer with a Pickett 3-pointer, cutting USC’s halftime lead to 30-24.

In the second half, the Tigers recovered less than four points with a 7-0 run as the Gamecocks missed six straight shots from the field. Brazile sparked a rare transition chance for the Tigers when he slid down the field but still managed to intercept a pass in the paint and sent a pass to Amari Davis for a lay-up. A few trips to the foul line cut South Carolina’s lead to three in the final minutes. A drive from Pickett, followed by two more free throws made it a one-point deficit with 1:34 left.

Devin Carter responded with a three-point play for a 63-59 lead, but with a chance to close in, the Tigers fed the ball to Brown, but he dribbled his foot along the baseline. The rally spat from there.

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