On Tuesday, Cuonzo Martin said he enjoyed playing big road games early in the season as a test to see where his team is at in terms of development, but with a caveat.
“Not like we did at Utah last year,” Martin said. “Not like that.”
Friday night was déjà vu for Martin and MU as the Tigers fell 76-59 to its old Big 12 foe Iowa State. The Tigers had 25 turnovers, a recurring problem from last season’s team, to go along with 43 percent shooting and 26 fouls in a lackluster performance. A year ago the Tigers fell 77-59 at Utah.
Missouri and Iowa State used to square off regularly in the Big 12 and before that the Big 8, before Missouri moved on to the SEC. Friday’s game was the 235th meeting between the two schools.
On Friday, Illinois transfer Mark Smith led Missouri with 15 points and seven rebounds in a game where the Tigers outrebounded Iowa State 35-26 but handed the Cyclones 25 points off turnovers. Missouri had more turnovers (25) than field goals (19).
Virginia grad transfer Marial Shayok led Iowa State with 20 points and was one of four Cyclones in double-figures.
Early on, it looked like Missouri would be in decent shape. Poor shooting and rebounding by the Cyclones allowed Missouri to capitalize in that early going. Iowa State opened the game on 4-for-15 shooting and despite a quick 4-0 lead, the Tigers had plenty of opportunities offensively.
Freshman Xavier Pinson drained a three out of the under-16 timeout to give MU its first lead of the night, a 7-4 advantage with 15 minutes left. Iowa State quickly countered with a three of its own by freshman Tyrese Haliburton, who started in place of Cyclones star Lindell Wigginton, who was out with a foot injury. It was after Pinson’s three that Missouri’s turnover troubles began to mount.
Pinson, a gifted passer, threw two no-look passes to his teammates when they weren’t ready. Both resulted in turnovers and were part of the 15 MU had in the first half. Mitchell Smith gave Missouri a small lead off a feed from Jordan Geist to make the score 12-10 with 12 minutes remaining in the first half. A layup from Mark Smith extended the lead to 14-10, but MU gave it right back as Iowa State tied the game at 14-14.
After freshman Talen Horton-Tucker drilled a three that gave Iowa State a 22-20 lead at 4:51, Geist immediately responded with a three of his own to give MU the lead back.
But Missouri’s troubles began to mount. Cyclones guard Zion Griffin hit a three-pointer out of the final media timeout of the first half to spark a 12-2 Iowa State run to close out the first half. Tigers coach Cuonzo Martin was forced to play senior Kevin Puryear and freshman Torrence Watson with two fouls. Watson was Missouri’s scoring leader in the first half with seven points.
Missouri struggled to get the ball to Jermeiah Tilmon, who had 16 points in Tuesday’s win over Central Arkansas. Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said the game plan was to double-team Tilmon in the post and keep the ball away from him. Prohm’s plan worked: Tilmon was limited to five points and seven rebounds on just four shots.
“They really try to get it to Tilmon,” Prohm said. “If you can get him off his sweet spot, because if he can get a paint touch he’s really tough to guard. We wanted to get him off the block and bring the fire.”
Following Griffin’s three, Nick Weiler-Babb added a pair of layups and Griffin had one also that extended Iowa State’s lead to 29-25. Forward Michael Jacobson’s wide open three-pointer sent the decibel level at Hilton Coliseum up a few ticks.
Watson had a good look at a corner three to end the half but it rimmed out, sending MU into the locker room down 34-25.
Missouri’s problems picked up where they left off at the start of the second half. Geist turned over MU’s first offensive possession in an attempt to find Puryear. The Tigers didn’t score a basket until Puryear’s layup with 15:50 left in the second half. By that point, the Tigers were trailing 42-30.
Puryear got going offensively, as he scored nine straight points. And a three from Mark Smith cut the Cyclones’ lead to 53-40 with 12:13 left, prompting Martin to call timeout. Puryear finished the game with 10 points and five rebounds.
“I think in the first half the fouls definitely held me back I wasn’t able to get into a flow of the game,” Puryear said. “I was more assertive the second half.“
Geist hit a three-pointer with 11 minutes left, making it a 10-point deficit at 53-43. But Iowa State responded with eight straight points and was able to put the game away.
Missouri’s 25 turnovers exceeded last season’s high when the Tigers had 21 against Stephen F. Austin, Illinois and Mississippi. The Stephen F. Austin was the lone team Missouri beat with that turnover amount.
Missouri is back in action next Friday against Kennesaw State in the first round of the Paradise Jam. A tipoff time has yet to be set.
Puryear said the Utah game was big for Missouri last year, since it got the Tigers back to the drawing board and sparked a run where MU won eight of its next nine games.
With a team full of young and inexperienced players, Puryear thinks Friday’s loss can have the same effect.
“It’s a lesson for us,” Puryear said. “This is definitely something we can learn from.”