Missouri coach Kim Anderson could sense the game slipping away Saturday during a 74-58 loss against Xavier at Mizzou Arena.
The Tigers, 5-5, clawed back from a 13-point first-half deficit and pulled as close as one point a few times early in the second half, but MU never quite got over the hump.
Missouri only trailed by five when junior Ryan Rosburg dribbled the baseline and got bumped by Xavier center Matt Stainbrook before his pass to the corner was picked off by J.P. Macura.
No foul was called.
Anderson erupted — drawing a technical foul, his first as the Tigers’ coach.
“I was trying to fire my team up obviously,” Anderson said.
Missouri got a couple of whistles during the next half-minute, but it only delayed the inevitable.
The Tigers, who started the game one of 10 from the field in digging that early hole, went ice cold from long range as the Musketeers pulled away with a 23-7 run a few minutes after Anderson’s technical.
Missouri missed all 11 three-point tries in the second half and finished one of 16 overall, the program’s worst performance since going zero for eight in a loss at Kansas on Feb. 4, 2008.
“We can’t put our heads down,” said MU senior guard Keith Shamburger, who scored seven points with three assists and three steals. “We’ve just got to keep going from here and keep trying to get better.”
The Tigers entered Saturday shooting nearly 40 percent from three-point range, making it a strength of the offense.
It wasn’t against Xavier, 8-2, which knocked off Alabama last Saturday and plays at Auburn next Saturday.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well, but we didn’t shoot the ball well when we weren’t guarded,” Anderson said. “Yeah, there were contested shots, but we had some open shots too from three that we didn’t make.”
Missouri had several chances to take the lead early in the second half.
Trailing by one point in each instance, sophomore forward Johnathan Williams III missed a layup, Shamburger bricked an 18-footer and freshman wing Montaque Gill-Caesar drew front iron on a three-pointer from the right wing.
“We had a chance to change the game,” Anderson said.
Instead, after freshman Tramaine Isabell drew Missouri within 44-41 on a nifty hesitation dribble and finger roll, Xavier put together a decisive run.
Freshman Trevon Bluiett scored six points, and sophomore Myles Davis added two three-pointers during the decisive spurt.
Senior Dee Davis, who finished with 17 points and four assists, chipped in five points in the run.
Williams scored 17 points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds for MU, while freshman forward Jakeenan Gant finished with 13 points off the bench in his first college game.
Gant, a freshman forward who sat out the first nine games as Missouri reviewed his eligibility, provided an immediate spark when he checked in with 8:51 remaining in the first half.
Xavier led 20-7 at that point, but Gant scored seven quick points, including the first five in a 11-2 run that trimmed the Musketeers’ lead to 26-22.
Freshman forward D’Angelo Allen capped the run with a steal and uncontested dunk in transition, complete with a Cam Newton-style Superman celebration.
Allen’s dunk came in the middle of a seven-point run for the Tigers, who trailed 32-27 at halftime after Williams hit a runner in the closing seconds.
“I’m not embarrassed of these guys; I’m not ashamed of these guys,” Anderson said. “I’m proud of them, but we’ve just got to keep working.”