Missouri coach Kim Anderson spent about half of his postgame news conference drawing a line in the sand when it comes to disciplinary issues.
The latest issue: Saturday morning Anderson suspended freshmen guards Montaque Gill-Caesar and Namon Wright for an unspecific team rule violation. Anderson didn’t elaborate, just as he didn’t when he suspended another freshman guard, Tramaine Isabell, three games ago.
That sent Mizzou into Saturday’s game against Texas A&M with eight scholarship players, and the Tigers fell 83-61 for their ninth straight loss.
Beating the Aggies would have been a tall order for Missouri at full strength. A&M beat Mizzou earlier this season and is one of the league’s hottest teams, having won seven of eight games. Before that run came the double-overtime home loss to Kentucky.
Without the backcourt depth, victory was nearly impossible, but that didn’t change Anderson’s approach when it comes to discipline.
“We’re going to have a basketball program that this university can be proud of,” Anderson said. “There are certain things that you must be accountable for. When you’re not accountable there are consequences.
“It wouldn’t have mattered if we were 20-3 or 7-16, I would have done the same thing.”
Saturday’s suspensions affected Mizzou in several ways. Most important, it took about 14 points from a lineup that has great difficulty scoring. The 61 points on Saturday were the most in nearly a month.
With players having to cover different spots in the zone defense, it also affected rotation. A few times, A&M was able to easily slip inside the defense for an easy basket.
The three available guards — Wes Clark, Keith Shamburger and Deuce Bello —started. Bello’s start was the first of his 82-game career, which opened at Baylor.
The game remained in striking distance for Missouri for about 30 minutes. The Tigers trailed 38-31 at halftime, and a Jakeenan Gant dunk with 12:55 remaining cut the Aggies lead to 53-44.
But A&M scored the next six to ensure the outcome, and the margin climbed from there as Missouri wore out.
“There was a little fatigue at the end,” Clark said.
On both sides of the ball. Texas A&M shot 70.4 percent in the second half and 59 percent for the game.
The Tigers had no answer for Danuel House, who finished with 20 and turned the game in A&M’s favor early when his three-pointers on consecutive possessions provided a 15-9 lead.
The teams had waged a tighter game on Jan. 21, when Missouri led at College Station, Texas, by seven at halftime.
That was one in a series of losses for the Tigers where they showed some encouraging signs. There have been few positive signs in the latest setbacks.
Missouri, 7-16 overall and 1-9 in the SEC, now owns a nine-game losing streak, the program’s longest since dropping 12 in a row in 1967, the final year for Bob Vanatta. Norm Stewart took over the next season.
And it continues a spiral for the program that, like A&M, has had a rough transition from the Big 12 into the SEC.
When it comes to men’s basketball, transition into the conference hasn’t been smooth for its two newest members.
In their first two full seasons, Missouri and Texas A&M didn’t post a winning conference record.
Compare that to the Tigers’ final year in the Big 12, when they won 30 games and the conference tournament. Or the Aggies’ run of six NCAA Tournament appearances, ending in 2011.
But A&M appears to be turning the corner in the SEC. Mizzou keeps working in reverse. The 22-point losing margin was the largest since falling to Iowa State in 2006, and two weeks later Quin Snyder resigned as coach.
The fifth straight home loss is the first since the 1965-66. The Tigers are on a path to one of their worst seasons in five decades. Players who don’t toe the line won’t be around to help prevent it.