During nonconference play, Missouri ranked among the top 70 teams in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com.
That number was expected to slip a bit once the Southeastern Conference slate got underway, which is has with third-year coach Kim Anderson’s squad now ranked No. 91 nationally, but a deeper dive into the Tigers’ defensive numbers shows an alarming second-half trend.
Through seven conference games, Mizzou’s managed to hold its own during the first in almost every game — the lone exception being at Arkansas — but that changes dramatically after halftime.
Only one team — Mississippi, which won 75-71 at Mizzou Arena last Saturday — has shot worse in the second half than the first against Missouri.
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The Rebels are also the only team that didn’t score at least 40 second-half points against the Tigers, while only the Razorbacks have topped 40 points during the first half.
Mizzou (5-14, 0-7 SEC) allows nearly 11 more points in the second half (45.3) compared to the first half (34.7) during conference play.
The Tigers’ opponents only shoot 42.7 percent, including 33.0 percent from the three-point range, before halftime, but those percentages spike to 53.9 percent and 46.2 percent after halftime.
That was the case again Wednesday at Mississippi State, where Mizzou was unable to protect a 43-39 halftime lead.
The Bulldogs shot a blistering 64.3 percent and scored 50 points in the second half in rallying for a comfortable 89-74 win.
It’s the third time an SEC team has scored at least 50 second-half points this season against the Tigers.
“The first half we did a good job of mixing our defenses a little bit and maybe keeping them a little off balance …,” Anderson said. “Obviously, the second half (freshman guard Lamar) Peters and (sophomore guard Quinndary) Weatherspoon just took over and we really had no answer. We tried different guys, we tried different coverages, but I think you’ve just got to give them credit.”
Second-year MSU coach Ben Howland’s squad made 8 of 12 three-pointers in the second half after shooting 4 of 11 in the first half, but Anderson isn’t convinced it’s anything more than coincidence.
“They did a good job of spreading the floor and we don’t guard the ball well,” Anderson said. “They made their open shots. I don’t know that first half/second half makes a whole lot of difference.”
Perhaps, it’s simply that the Tigers aren’t very good defensively.
“You’ve got to give them credit,” sophomore guard Jordan Geist said. “Knocking down shots is tough to do, but we’ve got to play better defense. That’s got to be our main focus, and that’s how we’re going to win games.”
Opposing teams’ assist-to-turnover ratio also rises nominally in the second half from 1.00 to 1.14 during conference play.
On the glass, Missouri actually owns a plus-0.43 average rebounding margin before halftime, but its SEC opponents boast a plus-1.86 average rebounding margin after halftime.
It’s all contributed to the worst start in conference play since Bob Vanatta’s 1965-66 squad opened Big Eight play with 11 consecutive losses.
“We’ve got to grow up and I think over time we’ll learn how to win, because I think (experience is) the missing component,” sophomore forward Kevin Puryear said. “It’s not the talent. It’s not our effort. It’s just making winning plays when we need to make them.”
Missouri defensive breakdown by half
Scoring defense PPG
Opp. Assist/Turnover ratio