Defensive shortcomings mean Mizzou back on the bubble

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02/23/2014 7:46 PM

05/16/2014 11:46 AM

So, Alabama junior Levi Randolph lit up Missouri on Saturday, powering an 80-73 upset at Coleman Coliseum.

It was unexpected to say the least.

Randolph entered play averaging 8.0 points per game — eight. He had never scored more than the 20 points he dropped on North Florida three months ago.

During SEC play, Randolph had never scored more than 18 points, which he’s done twice against Mississippi State.

He scored 33, which is the most Missouri has allowed since J’Covan Brown scored 34 for Texas two years ago.

In other words, it’s not a good look for the Tigers, who had seemingly started to solidify a sixth straight NCAA Tournament berth with three consecutive wins.

Now, it’s back to the bubble for Missouri.

And if the Tigers don’t hear their name called on March 16 during the tourney selection show, the loss against Alabama — ranked No. 127 by the NCAA’s RPI — probably will be a big reason.

“We wanted to keep eyes on (senior guard Trevor) Releford,” junior Jabari Brown explained. “Not that that’s an excuse for letting guys get behind us, but I think that was part of it as well.”

Before lighting up Missouri, Randolph was shooting 39.7 percent overall and 30.9 percent from three-point range. He made 11 of 15 shots (73.3 percent) and five of seven threes (71.4 percent) on Saturday.

“He got a lot of layups,” Tigers coach Frank Haith said. “We weren’t aware where he was at, easy buckets in transition and once he got his confidence, like good players, they can get it going.”

Unfortunately, that’s happened a lot against Missouri.

Northwestern’s JerShon Cobb, who averages 12.2 points, scored 22, which is the second most points he’s had in a game this season.

Illinois’ Tracy Abrams, who averages 11.3 points, also scored 22. He hasn’t scored more than 17 in any other game.

Auburn’s K.T. Harrell averages 19, but he scored 27 against Missouri, his second-highest total of the season.

Vanderbilt’s Rod Odom averages 14.5 points, but he scored 24 — his second-highest scoring game — in a win in Nashville, Tenn.

South Carolina’s Brenton Williams, who averages 14.2 points, torched the Tigers for a career-high 32 points and seven three-pointers.

Mississippi’s Marshall Henderson dropped 29 on Missouri. While he averages 19.4 points, that was his second-highest scoring game of the season.

Tennessee’s Jordan McRae lit up the Tigers for 31, which is his second-most points in a game this season.

Finally, there was Randolph’s 33.

“I think it’s effort and communication,” junior Jordan Clarkson said when asked what’s wrong with the defense. “It goes both ways. We’ve just got to pull this thing together.”

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