Hey, making a run in the NIT might be more fun than going one-and-done at the NCAA tournament, anyway. The way the Missouri Tigers have looked in their past two games, they wouldn’t last long in the dance even if they were to sneak in.
Their 71-56 loss at Georgia on Tuesday night was their most disappointing — and lopsided — loss of the season, which is somewhat appropriate since their home setback to the Bulldogs in the conference opener really was the beginning of the end of a once-promising season.
BIG THREE STRUGGLES
So this is what happens when Jabari Brown, Jordan Clarkson and Earnest Ross are cold on the same night. With the trio combining for 38 points, the Tigers endured their lowest-scoring and worst-shooting (32.1 percent) game of the season. Perhaps not coincidentally, their third-lowest output also came against Georgia, the rare team that can match the size of Missouri’s backcourt.
Brown shot 5 of 17, Clarkson 4 of 12 and Ross 2 of 8 for a combined 11 of 37 (29.7 percent). They missed 15 of their 17 3-point attempts. Brown’s outside shooting has turned as cold in February as it was hot in January. In his past seven games, he is 7 for 30 (23.3 percent).
With the big three having trouble scoring, Missouri suffered a long scoring drought in each half, including a 4:46 stretch in the second half that allowed the Bulldogs to open a 20-point lead.
TIGERS ASSURED OF A WORSE FINISH SECOND TIME AROUND
Now 7-8 in the SEC, the Tigers don’t have a chance of matching their 11-7 record from their inaugural SEC season. And remember, last year was considered disappointing.
Missouri has three games left, including two at home against Mississippi State on Saturday and Texas A&M next Wednesday. The good news: Both foes have struggled about as much as the Tigers recently. The bad: A win over either will do little to help Missouri’s tournament resume. The Tigers then will finish the regular season at Tennessee on March 8.
CRISWELL’S DISAPPOINTING SEASON
No Tigers player will regret this season more than senior forward Tony Criswell. Since he was suspended for the first two games, Criswell has spent more time in than out of his coach’s doghouse. For the lone returning big man who played significant minutes last season, that has not helped him or his team.
Criswell hasn’t come close to providing the consistent energy he brought off the bench last year. On many nights, you don’t know if he’ll even get in the game. Frank Haith didn’t play Criswell until fewer than four minutes were left in the first half at Georgia. He was the fifth, and last, big man to get on the court.
Criswell gave the Tigers a glimpse of what might have been with a solid spurt in the second half that included two much-needed baskets, the only points the Tigers would get from their bench. But then Criswell took a bad fall on his backside with 9:22 remaining and did not return.
For the season, Criswell’s numbers are down virtually across the board. The only increase has been in his 3-point attempts, which hasn’t earned him any extra minutes. Unless Criswell dramatically improves his production over the remaining games, he’ll finish with fewer points and rebounds than he did a year ago. He’s averaging 4.3 points and 3.7 rebounds, not exactly what he was shooting for in his final season.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.