The 4,123 fans who trekked Monday to Mizzou Arena were more like rubberneckers driving past a grisly car crash, watching Missouri stub its toe hard against North Carolina Central.
The cold-shooting Tigers — who smashed a team record for futility at Mizzou Arena by going 17 of 68 from the field, a dismal 25 percent — never led during a 62-52 upset by the Eagles, who were ranked No. 228 by KenPom before the game.
“Certainly disappointed,” third-year coach Kim Anderson said, opening his postgame remarks with a heavy sigh. “I thought early on we had a lot of shots, a lot of good shots, and we just didn’t make them. … We missed 51 shots and it seems like 40 of them were at the basket.”
Not quite, but not far off either.
Missouri, 3-3, shot an alarming 26.3 percent in the paint, going 10 of 38 overall on those shots.
The Tigers only made 2 of 17 first-half layups, according to the official shot chart, and went 3 of 22 overall in the paint before the break.
“I’ve got to be honest with you guys, I’ve coached and I’ve played I don’t know how many basketball games and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen something like I just saw as far as missing so many shots at the basket,” Anderson said.
Missouri’s first possession of the game — a remarkable 56-second ordeal — set an ominous tone.
The Tigers missed six shots, but collected five offensive rebounds.
“These are layups,” Phillips said. “We started 0 for 9 and I think seven of those are layups, like point-blank layups that I just couldn’t believe we were missing.”
Sophomore forward Kevin Puryear went 0 for 4, but also snagged a couple of offensive rebounds, while Phillips also missed two shots before the Eagles finally gained possession.
Mizzou indeed went on to miss its first nine shots — freshman guard Frankie Hughes also clanged a pair of free throws — but only trailed 4-0 thanks to North Carolina Central’s own shooting woes, only 8 of 29 from the field in the first half.
Phillips broke the lengthy scoring drought with a three-pointer from the right wing at the 16-minute, 24-second mark.
But that didn’t represent a breakout or a new trend.
Instead, the Tigers limped into halftime shooting 17.1 percent after going 6 of 35 from the field in the opening half.
Mizzou was only 41.7 percent from the free-throw line, going 5 of 12 after sophomore Cullen VanLeer’s hit two free throws with a second remaining.
He was awarded the trip to the line after North Carolina Central fouled VanLeer 88 feet from the basket after he grabbed a defensive rebound.
“At halftime, I told them, ‘You can’t play any worse. There’s no way we could play any worse,’ ” Anderson said. “I felt bad, but I felt good. We were only down four points, and we shot 17 percent from the field (in that first half).”
North Carolina Central, which ultimately won the rebounding battle 46-43, maintained its lead by going 13 of 15 at the free-throw line in the second half.
Senior guard Patrick Cole only went 3 of 16 from the field, but he made 9 of 10 free throws and finished with game-highs of 17 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.
Hughes, Puryear and VanLeer finished 7 of 34 overall and 1 of 16 from three-point range combined.
Phillips, who finished with 17 points on 6 of 10 shooting, was the Tigers’ lone bright spot offensively, but he couldn’t stay out of foul trouble.
He picked up his third foul 65 seconds into the second half and didn’t last three minutes upon his return before committing his fourth personal foul.
After returning with 7:01 remaining, Phillips drilled a couple of three-pointers as Mizzou rallied back as close four points in the closing minutes.
He fouled out going for a loose ball with 2:35 remaining and the Tigers trailing 52-48.
“I think he’s the heart and soul of the team as he’s out there,” Eagles coach LaVelle Moton said. “You can just see that they had a different swagger about themselves and fortunately, he fouled out at the right time. I’m happy that happened. I think that was our chancellor (Debra Saunders-White, 59, who passed away on Saturday) who threw a little bit of an elbow in his back to make him foul, I guess.”