An ill-timed field-goal drought late in the second half proved to be Missouri’s undoing Saturday against Auburn in an 85-79 loss at Auburn Arena.
After battling Illinois and Oklahoma State to the wire, Missouri got a breakthrough victory against LSU on Thursday and hoped to build off that.
Despite a 40-31 edge on the glass — including 17 offensive rebounds — Missouri came close, but couldn’t record its first three-game winning streak since last February.
“We didn’t make the plays we needed to at the end, but I was really proud of the way we fought,” Anderson said. “We’ve been a little banged up and a little short at the guard spot, but we hung in there.”
Sandwiched between three-point plays by sophomore guard Wes Clark with 10:09 remaining and 2:37 left in the second half, Missouri missed seven of eight shots, going from up six points to down five.
“We got a little stagnant,” Clark said.
Critical turnovers by freshmen Tramaine Isabell and D’Angelo Allen didn’t help, and came on either side of Auburn junior Cinmeon Bowers’ go-ahead free throw with 5:35 remaining.
“We’ve got to get smarter,” Anderson said. “We’ve got to do a better job at the right time, and we didn’t do that at the end.”
Powered by sophomore Tahj Shamsid-Deen, Auburn went on a 13-2 run that proved to the difference during Missouri’s doldrums. Shamsid-Deen scored eight of his 10 points during the outburst, which included Bowers’ free throw that gave Auburn a lead it would never relinquish.
Auburn’s leading scorer KT Harrell, who scored 14 points but was largely held in check by Missouri, brought the near-capacity crowd of 8,365 to a frenzy with a three-pointer before Malcolm Canada capped the decisive run with a free throw.
Missouri drew within two points twice — on Clark’s three-point play with 2:37 remaining and a three-pointer with 1:28 to go — but Johnathan Williams III, Keith Shamburger and Isabell missed threes in the closing 40 seconds and Auburn pulled away at the free-throw line.
“They played a little bit harder than us the last 3 minutes,” said Clark, who scored 16 points. “(They) were more the aggressor late in the game, and that’s the game.”
Down 41-40 at halftime, Missouri opened the second half on a 9-0 run.
Isabell hit freshman forward Jakeenan Gant with a no-look, wrap-around pass for a two-handed dunk.
Isbaell found Gant open at the rim again, whipping a cross-court pass from the left wing to the right block after Williams converted his own layup.
Senior guard Shamburger splashed home his season-high fifth three-pointer, capping the run and giving Missouri its largest lead of the game at 49-41.
Missouri’s lead had been trimmed to 51-47 when Bowers picked Keanau Post’s pocket at midcourt. After some hand-fighting down the floor, Post clobbered Bowers as he went up for a layup, drawing a flagrant foul.
It seemed to spark Bowers, who finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds and was a force in the paint during the closing minutes.
“Down the stretch, we couldn’t stop the dribble penetration and couldn’t keep them off the line,” Anderson said. “Hopefully, as a young team, we’ll learn from this and get better next time.”
Shamburger, who hit four first-half three-pointers and finished with a season-high five threes, led all scorers with 21 points.
Clark sat for 10 minutes in the first half because of two fouls, while freshman Namon Wright, who started in place of Montaque Gill-Caesar (back spasms) for the second straight game, picked up three first-half fouls.
Auburn had opened a 21-14 lead when Wright stopped the bleeding with a three-pointer, but he was jawing on the way back down the floor and was hit with a technical. He already had two personal fouls.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @todpalmer.