Mizzou falls to lowly Ole Miss in overtime
COLUMBIA, MO. • A road loss against an occasionally potent Louisiana State team is one thing.
A home loss to last-place Ole Miss and its lame duck interim coach is another.
In Missouri’s first chance to cleanse its palate from Saturday’s one-point defeat at LSU, Cuonzo Martin’s team put a damper on its postseason profile with Tuesday’s 90-87 overtime loss to the Rebels at Mizzou Arena.
Rarely looking like the team that ran off a five-game winning streak earlier this month, the Tigers threw the ball out of bounds. They missed free throws. They left shooters alone on the perimeter. In the paint, they played something only slightly reminiscent of defense.
In another disastrous night at the foul line, freshman forwards Jeremiah Tilmon and Jontay Porter both missed two free throws in overtime, but a steal in the closing seconds gave the Tigers one last chance. With 12 seconds left, Jordan Geist raced the length of the floor and attacked the rim but couldn’t connect or draw a foul. Instead, Markel Crawford grabbed the rebound, got fouled and sank two foul shots to extend the Rebel lead to three. Geist missed a 3 at the buzzer to clinch the Tigers’ second straight loss.
The defeat dropped Mizzou to 18-10 and 8-7 in the Southeastern Conference with three regular-season games to play.
Down by 13 in the first half, the Tiger gained control late in the second half with a six-point lead but couldn’t close out the Rebels in regulation as Breein Tyree’s jumper with three seconds left sent the game to overtime. Kassius Robertson’s buzzer heave hit the rim but missed.
In the extra session, Mizzou failed to get a field goal and shot just 3 of 8 from the foul line. Overall, the Tigers made just 20 of 31 free throws.
From here, the Tigers close out the regular season with road games at Kentucky on Saturday and Vanderbilt next Tuesday and the home finale against Arkansas on March 3.
Tuesday’s game was Ole Miss’ first without longtime coach Andy Kennedy on the Rebels’ sideline. Kennedy, the dean of SEC coaches when the season began, announced earlier this month his 12th season at the school would be his last. On Sunday, he decided to leave the program immediately, putting assistant coach Tony Madlock in charge for the rest of the season.
Perhaps it was a coincidence, but the coaching change seemed to ignite some effort from the Rebels (11-17, 5-10) rarely seen during the seven-game losing streak they carried to Columbia. Ole Miss scorched the nets early, making 6 of 13 3-pointers in the opening half and feasted on Mizzou turnovers. The Rebels turned nine first-half giveaways into 13 points and outscored MU in transition 8-0.
Geist provided the rare highlight for the Tigers in the half’s final minute, tossing a shot off the glass behind his back in traffic while getting fouled, good for a three-point play that got the Tigers within five. But Mizzou fell asleep on Ole Miss’ final possession, letting Dominik Olejniczak get inside for an easy basket in the paint for a 42-35 halftime lead.
The Tigers were called for just two fouls in the first half, which might have reflected their lack of physicality more than the officials’ conservative whistles.
Ole Miss made four of its first five shots to open the second half and regained its double-digit lead as the Tigers continued to find ways to turn the ball over. Getting a rare chance for a transition basket, Jordan Barnett threw a pass two rows deep into the crowd. Geist twice lost the ball deep in the backcourt.
Nine minutes into the half, Porter’s cross-court pass to Robertson for a 3-pointer got the Tigers within 58-53, later followed by a deep Robertson 3. The Rebels always had an answer. Deandre Burnett settled the crowd with a 3 off the glass on the next possession, but Barnett erupted the arena again with a contested 3, slicing the Rebel lead to two heading into the 8-minute timeout.
Midway through the second half, the Tigers started making the plays that put Ole Miss in front early. Tilmon chased down a loose ball into the stands. Geist followed a missed 3-pointer with a catch and rumble into traffic, earning two free throws.
The Tigers finally captured the lead with 4:54 left on Geist’s 3-pointer then built a six-point lead on 3s from Barnett and Porter.
With a minute to go and Mizzou up one, Robertson gave the ball away, but Barnett blocked Crawford’s layup.
With a chance to take the lead, Tyree missed a jumper with 30 seconds left, and Geist went sprawling to corral the rebound. Fouled on the play, Geist gave the Tigers an 83-80 lead but couldn’t sink both foul shots with 12 seconds left, leaving the door open for Breein’s game-tying jumper at the end of regulation.
Tuesday’s game was Missouri’s last before Michael Porter Jr.’s much anticipated check-up with his spinal surgeon Thursday in Dallas. If things go well during Porter’s appointment, he could be cleared for full-contact practices, though it’s uncertain if he’d be available to play immediately. The Tigers’ next game is Saturday at Kentucky. Porter’s only action in the regular season came in the opening minutes of MU’s Nov. 10 season opener against Iowa State. He underwent lower back surgery on Nov. 21, an injury Mizzou initially said would sideline him for three to four months and likely for the season.