No. 20 Missouri will try to snap its three-game losing streak when it goes on the road to play South Carolina on Saturday afternoon in Southeastern Conference action in Columbia, S.C.
The Tigers (13-6, 6-6 SEC) had a No. 4 seed when the NCAA Tournament selection committee revealed its first mock bracket last Saturday. But their late-season downturn could derail their quest for a high seed.
“Everyone in there wants to figure out what’s wrong,” Missouri forward Kobe Brown said. “No one’s in there moping. … We’re trying to figure out what to do next. What’s the next step? We want to get better and be the team we know we can be.”
The Gamecocks (5-10, 3-8) lost to the Tigers 81-70 earlier this season on the road. South Carolina has lost four consecutive games heading into this rematch at Colonial Life Arena.
“We have no personality defensively,” Gamecocks coach Frank Martin said. “At the guard spot our desire to defend and sustain effort is not what it needs to be. When the other team goes on a mini run we get selfish on offense and try to play hero basketball.”
Missouri played without center Jeremiah Tilmon during the 86-81 overtime loss at home to Arkansas on Saturday and in its 80-70 loss at Georgia Tuesday.
Tilmon, who has been away from the team due to a death in the family, is averaging 12.8 points and 7.8 rebounds this season.
But Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin believed the Tigers should have won at Georgia despite his absence. The Tigers built a 13-point lead in the second half before falling apart at both ends of the court.
“You put yourself in a position to win on the road you got to find a way to win,” Cuonzo Martin said. “This game, a quick shot here, a couple of easy misses around the rim takes the momentum out of you. Then you get the live-ball turnovers.
“I thought we had what we needed to (have) to win the game.”
In Tilmon’s absence, the Tigers leaned harder on Brown and Parker Braun. Brown scored a career-high 21 points against the Bulldogs and had five rebounds, two blocked shots and a steal.
Braun played 47 minutes in the Arkansas and Georgia games after playing just 103 minutes in Missouri’s first 17 games. He had 13 points, five rebounds, four blocked shots and four assists in the last two games.
South Carolina played without Jermaine Couisnard (ankle injury) and Justin Minava (head injury) during its 93-73 loss at Tennessee on Wednesday. Couisnard is the Gamecocks’ third-leading scoring at 9.7 points per game and Minaya is fourth with an 8.1 average.
That put extra pressure on AJ Lawson, who scored 20 against the Volunteers. That was the ninth time in his last 12 games that he scored 20 or more points.
The Gamecocks hung with Tennessee into the second half, but their inability to contain Tennessee standout Victor Bailey Jr. left Frank Martin vexed. Bailey scored a career-high 29 points.
“We’re in a six- or seven-point game in the second half and give up a run,” Frank Martin said. “They came down and scored and we committed some of the worst fouls I’ve ever seen anyone commit. Another big run that just does us in. We can’t stop the bleeding when it starts.”
–Field Level Media