University of Missouri

Mizzou makes a game of it in 72-62 loss to No. 11 Kentucky

Postgame interviews: Kentucky 72, Missouri 62

Missouri basketball coach Kim Anderson, as well as sophomore point guard Terrence Phillips and junior forward Jordan Barnett speak following the Tigers' 72-62 loss to Kentucky
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Missouri basketball coach Kim Anderson, as well as sophomore point guard Terrence Phillips and junior forward Jordan Barnett speak following the Tigers' 72-62 loss to Kentucky

Missouri was primed for an upset Tuesday against No. 11 Kentucky, fueled by Mizzou Arena’s largest and loudest crowd of the season.

It especially seemed like kismet when a student punctuated a one-point game at halftime by hitting a half-court shot worth $5,000.

The Tigers, who have rented space in the Southeastern Conference cellar for three straight seasons, were going toe-to-toe with the two-time reigning conference champion Wildcats, who have the most wins of any program in NCAA history.

The student section at the arena’s south end was packed to the rafters for the first time this season, supplying waves of energy and enthusiasm that helped Mizzou tie the game with fewer than 8 minutes remaining.

But reality set in down the stretch and Kentucky pulled away in the end for a 72-62 victory — remaining undefeated in 10 games against the Tigers, who’ve lost 18 straight games against ranked teams.

“Collectively, as a group, we played pretty well for about 35 minutes, but we’ve got to find ways to finish games,” said MU sophomore guard Terrence Phillips, who finished with a team- and career-high 22 points. “That was a game we really could have got, especially at home with the crowd behind us.”

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Mizzou (7-20, 2-13 SEC) spotted Kentucky (23-5, 13-2 SEC) a seven-point lead early in the second half before rallying into a 52-52 tie with 7:42 remaining.

Wildcats coach John Calipari — who lauded Missouri because it hasn’t “let go of the rope” and continues to “fight like crazy” — was whistled for a technical foul, taking exception to a traveling call against freshman center Wenyen Gabriel as he was hounded after a defensive rebound by a pack of Tigers defenders.

“I didn’t swear, but I did deserve it,” Calipari said.

Phillips connected on both free throws coming out of the timeout, and junior forward Jordan Barnett drew Mizzou even with a bucket inside on the ensuing possession as the announced crowd of 11,574 let Calipari have it.

Calipari and Kentucky took it in stride, even when freshman guard De’Aaron Fox briefly left the game after being injured under the rim on the game-tying basket.

“If I walk in on an opponent’s court and they’re not cussing me or booing me, I should retire,” Calipari said.

Freshman Bam Adebayo, who scored on an and-one on the Wildcats’ next possession that kicked off an 8-0 surge that put the visitors in front for good, wasn’t surprised by the poise down the stretch as Kentucky doubled up Missouri 20-10 in the final 7  1/2 minutes.

“Everywhere we play, home or away, it’s everybody’s Super Bowl and they’re trying to beat us,” said Adebayo, who finished with game-highs of 22 points and 15 rebounds. “We came out slow. … It’s a long day and everybody’s laying around all day, so we just came out slow.”

With a win, Kentucky kept pace with Florida — an 81-66 winner Tuesday against South Carolina in Gainesville, Fla. — atop the SEC standings.

That sets up a winner-take-all de facto SEC championship game Saturday in Lexington, Ky., between the Wildcats and Gators.

“We just couldn’t make key shots when we needed to in the second half when we got the game tied at 52-52,” MU coach Kim Anderson said. “We went on a little bit of a drought, and never could get back over the hump.”

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While Mizzou had a season-low four assists and never found an answer for Adebayo, it hounded Kentucky’s star guards into off nights.

Freshman Malik Monk, who is the SEC’s leading scorer, finished with a quiet 11 points, shooting 4 of 12 overall and 1 of 5 from three-point range.

Fox also struggled, scoring 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting with five rebounds and a game-best four assists.

“Obviously, there’s some moral victories in there, but we’re getting kind of tired of moral victories,” Phillips said.

The Tigers, who were outrebounded 26-12 in the second half, have lost 20 games for the third straight season, a first in SEC men’s basketball history.

Missouri only had two 20-loss seasons — 1965-66 and 1966-67 in Bob Vanatta’s final two seasons before Norm Stewart was hired — in 108 years prior to the current stretch of futility.

The Tigers landed the game’s first punch on senior forward Russell Woods’ bucket over Adebayo and a steal and uncontested dunk by sophomore guard K.J. Walton.

Mizzou never led by more than four points, but Anderson’s squad weathered every Kentucky run during a first half that featured four ties and three lead changes.

After the Wildcats stretched the lead to 20-15 midway through the half, the Tigers rattled off a 13-4 run that included two of Phillips’ four three-pointers, five points from Barnett and a two-handed power jam by freshman forward Reed Nikko.

As nice as Nikko’s dunk off a defense-splitting bounce pass from Phillips was, it paled in comparison to Barnett’s vicious slam earlier in the half.

Barnett, who finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, blocked a jumper by Monk, beat Willis to the loose ball — as Willis tumbled backward to the ground — and presumably received clearance from Columbia Regional Airport to take off from outside the paint for a soaring slam.

The Wildcats closed the half on a 7-2 run and led 31-30 at intermission despite a 19-18 rebounding deficit and nine turnovers.

Kentucky didn’t have a single fast-break point in the first half, a key point of emphasis for Mizzou and went 6 of 12 from the free-throw line.

Sophomore forward Kevin Puryear led the Tigers with eight rebounds, but he only scored four points, finishing 1 of 11 from the field and 2 of 7 at the free-throw line.

Aside from Phillips, who was 4 of 8 from three-point range and 8 of 8 at the line, Mizzou missed all 14 from deep and went 6 of 15 on charity tosses.

No. 11 KENTUCKY 72

MISSOURI 62

Kentucky

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

F

Pt

Adebayo

35

6-9

10-13

15

0

1

22

Gabriel

20

2-5

0-0

5

0

3

6

Briscoe

23

4-6

1-3

5

3

5

9

Fox

34

4-10

4-6

5

4

2

13

Monk

38

4-12

2-2

3

3

3

11

Hawkins

19

0-1

2-4

1

0

3

2

Willis

16

2-5

0-0

1

0

3

4

Mulder

9

1-1

0-0

2

0

1

3

Humphries

6

1-3

0-0

0

0

0

2

Totals

200

24-52

19-28

37

10

22

72

Percentages: FG .462, FT .679. Three-Point Goals: 5-18, .278 (Gabriel 2-4, Mulder 1-1, Fox 1-2, Monk 1-5, Hawkins 0-1, Briscoe 0-2, Willis 0-3). Team Rebounds: 8. Blocked Shots: 5 (Adebayo 3, Briscoe, Gabriel). Turnovers: 17 (Briscoe 6, Adebayo 3, Gabriel 3, Monk 3, Fox 2). Steals: 1 (Hawkins). Technical Fouls: coach John Calipari, 7:47 second. Fouled Out: Briscoe.

Missouri

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

F

Pt

Puryear

35

1-11

2-7

8

0

2

4

Woods

14

2-3

0-0

4

0

5

4

Phillips

31

5-10

8-8

4

3

4

22

VanLeer

8

0-1

0-0

0

0

1

0

Walton

33

4-11

1-3

2

0

3

9

Barnett

32

6-12

1-3

7

1

1

13

Geist

28

2-7

2-2

1

0

2

6

Nikko

10

1-1

0-0

2

0

5

2

Hughes

9

1-4

0-0

0

0

0

2

Totals

200

22-60

14-23

28

4

23

62

Percentages: FG .367, FT .609. Three-Point Goals: 4-22, .182 (Phillips 4-8, VanLeer 0-1, Walton 0-1, Geist 0-2, Hughes 0-3, Puryear 0-3, Barnett 0-4). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 3 (Barnett, Nikko, Phillips). Turnovers: 8 (Phillips 2, Walton 2, Barnett, Hughes, Nikko, Woods). Steals: 5 (Phillips 2, Puryear 2, Walton). Technical Fouls: None. Fouled Out: Woods, Nikko.

Half: Kentucky 31-30. Att: 11,574.

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