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Texas A&M tops Missouri 66-64 despite record free throws

January 22, 2020 GMT
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Missouri guard Xavier Pinson, bottom, dribbles around Texas A&M guard Savion Flagg, top, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
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Missouri guard Xavier Pinson, bottom, dribbles around Texas A&M guard Savion Flagg, top, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — For a struggling Missouri men’s basketball team, even an NCAA record-breaking night wasn’t enough for a win.

After sinking 31 straight free throws in its weekend loss to Alabama, the Tigers (9-9, 1-5 Southeastern Conference) continued their streak with 23 foul shots in a row against Texas A&M on Tuesday night. The 54 consecutive free throws broke the NCAA record of 50 set by Wake Forest in 2005.

But it wasn’t enough — Josh Nebo and his 14 points overpowered a sloppy Missouri team to a 66-64 Aggies’ win.

“Like God said, there’s pain in the journey you go through,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said. “So you have your ups and downs — so the pain is the loss, but the pleasure is those guys did something that will go down in history.”

The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Aggies and extended Missouri’s to three straight.

“It’s a tough loss,” Missouri guard Dru Smith said. “Yeah, the balls might not have been bouncing our way, but there are things that we could’ve done earlier in the game to combat that.”

The Tigers led 32-27 after a first half filled with errant passes and consistent free throws. Texas A&M (9-8, 3-3 SEC) led for much of the second half, but Missouri came within two points of tying it in the last minute of the game.

Nebo’s fifth foul sent Missouri’s Mitchell Smith to the free throw line, but he missed his second shot, keeping the Aggies ahead by one point. Smith had been 17-17 at the line this season before the miss.

“I don’t think No. 5 has missed a free throw all year, right?” Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams said, recalling the realization he had while filling out game charts before Tuesday night’s game. “Remarkable.”

The teams traded trips to the free throw line, then Missouri guard Torrence Watson missed a 3 at the buzzer to cement the Tigers’ loss.

“I actually thought Torrence made it,” Missouri guard Mark Smith said of the shot, which came on a full-court inbound play.

Missouri limited Nebo to five points in the first half, but the 6-foot-9-inch center dominated under the basket in the second half. With Missouri center Jeremiah Tilmon out with a foot injury, the Tigers rotated defensive duties between Mitchell Smith and Reed Nikko.

The Aggies’ offense was spread out over Nebo, Savion Flagg and Emanuel Miller. With six 3s made, Texas A&M averaged 35% from beyond the arc, significantly higher than its team percentage of 25%.

Missouri shot 30% from field goal range and just 25% from 3-point range.

“We have a lot of confidence that they’re going to make shots,” Dru Smith said. “And even if we have games like this where they don’t fall as often, if I pass them the ball and they’re open, I still want them to shoot that ball every time. Like (coach Cuonzo Martin) said, they’re definitely falling in practice, and I think we’re going to see it translate here soon.”

Mark Smith led Missouri’s offense with 19 points, including 15 from beyond the arc. Dru Smith scored 18 points and Torrence Watson added 11. Watson had averaged 4.8 points per game before Tuesday.

BIG PICTURE

Missouri: Inconsistent scoring and passing combined to hand Missouri its third straight loss. The Tigers have been unpredictable at home this season, tacking up an energizing win over Florida but also losses to Charleston Southern and Texas A&M.

Texas A&M: The Aggies capitalized on offensive production from Savion Flagg (14 points), Emanuel Miller (12) and Josh Nebo (14) to break its two-game losing streak. Nebo had averaged 12.5 points before Tuesday night.

THE SMITHS

Missouri’s Smiths — Dru, Mitchell and Mark — combined for 42 points and 22 rebounds in the loss. Dru Smith made history with the team’s 51st consecutive free throw, made with just under two minutes left in the second half. Mitchell Smith ended the streak at 54 with his first free throw miss of the season, shot within the last minute of game play. Mark Smith continues to lead the team offensively, notching 19 points for nearly a third of the team’s points.

UP NEXT

Missouri: The Tigers will head to West Virginia to face the Mountaineers on Saturday.

Texas A&M: The Aggies will face Oklahoma State on Saturday at home in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

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