McNeal: Three takeaways from Mizzou's 78-75 loss at Vandy
Another winnable game on the road, another letdown for the Tigers. Stan McNeal breaks down the Commodores' red-hot night from behind the arc and why the loss could have serious postseason implications for Mizzou.
Jordan Clarkson and the Tigers had a rough night at Vanderbilt's unique Memorial Gym.
Mark Humphrey / Associated Press
By Stan McNeal
Live by the 3 ...
Breaking down this one was simple: Missouri lost because of 3-pointers.
Vanderbilt entered the game ranked first and the Tigers came in second in SEC defensive field-goal percentage. Vanderbilt's defense lived up to its ranking; Missouri's did not.
The Tigers made only 6 of 23 3-pointers while Vanderbilt hit a season-high 12, which also marked the most Missouri has allowed in a game. Vanderbilt made four of its first five long-distance attempts to build a 17-5 lead barely four minutes into the game.
After Vandy finished the first half 8 for 17 on 3's, the Tigers did a better job of closing out shooters as they forced misses on 9 of Vandy's first 11 attempts in the second half. But the Commodores' leading 3-point shooters, Rod Odom and Kyle Fuller, both converted on open looks in the closing minutes that proved too much for Missouri to overcome.
Odom ended up matching Missouri with six 3's in 13 attempts as Vanderbilt finished 12 of 32 from long distance. Take away Jabari Brown's 4 for 7 and the Tigers made only 2 of 16 3's. Earnest Ross (0 for 7) and Jordan Clarkson (0 for 4) never did get used to shooting from the outside in Vanderbilt's unique Memorial Gym.
A bit of advice for the Tigers: Prepare to hear the word "bubble" a whole lot in the next two months. Despite impressive wins over UCLA and at North Carolina State, a 13-1 record in non-conference games and a stint in the Top 25, the Tigers have become a bubble team to make the NCAA Tournament. And that might be kind.
Losing to a couple of SEC also-rans, especially to Georgia at home, figure to hurt Missouri's chances of making March Madness as much as winning at N.C. State. The Tigers made 19 of 22 free throws, out-rebounded Vandy 45-35 and showed some grit in hanging in til the buzzer.
But besides their poor outside shooting, the Tigers missed too many inside "bunnies," as coach Frank Haith said in post-game radio remarks, and again was beaten for a rebound after an opponent's missed free throw. That was something that happened a few times against Georgia much to Haith's dismay.
This time, freshman Torren Jones allowed James Siakim to slip past him after Fuller missed a free throw, and the play resulted in a five-point possession that turned a 44-43 Missouri lead into a 48-44 deficit. The Tigers, who had gained the lead by scoring the first eight points of the second half, would trail the rest of the way.
Mizzou < SLU ?
Since the Tigers and Billikens won't be meeting on the court this season or any in the foreseeable future, we're left on our own to determine who is the better team.
Based on common opponents, it's the Billikens hands down. Like Missouri, SLU played at Vanderbilt recently. Like Missouri, SLU also trailed at the half. The Billikens were down six, the Tigers seven.
The similarities ended at the half. SLU owned the second half, 36-22, to go home with a 57-49 victory. The difference: 3-pointers. SLU gave up only 3 in 17 attempts.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.