Mizzou shows fight but not enough to dethrone No. 1 Kentucky

Wes Clark bounced back from his costly missed free throws against Arkansas by leading Mizzou with a career-best 19 points.

Dak Dillon/Dak Dillon-USA TODAY Sports

COLUMBIA, Mo. — This says all you need to know about the Missouri Tigers and the Kentucky Wildcats: Two weeks after their first meeting, the Tigers improved their performance by 33 points. And the Wildcats still beat them by 16.

Kentucky 69, Missouri 53.

"I’m not happy losing," Missouri coach Kim Anderson said. "But we played better."

"They came after us and they were not afraid," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "You don’t beat somebody like we did there. They came back and played like I would have expected them to play. Give them credit."

The loss was the sixth straight for the Tigers (7-13) while No. 1-ranked Kentucky went to 20-0, their best start under Calipari.

A FOUL FEST

After playing what Anderson said was a tentative game at Lexington, the Tigers worked all week on being more physical. And they were, perhaps too much so. Missouri committed a season-high 31 fouls as Kentucky shot 37 free throws, converting 20.

The Tigers went to the line 20 times and made 13. While that was just more than half of Kentucky’s attempts, it was more than Missouri has shot in its past four games.

"We talked all week about being aggressive, being physical, diving for loose balls, which is the way we want to play," Anderson said. "We did a good job with that. One of our goals was to play more physical than we did down there and we did."

The Wildcats figure to see more of the same against the rest of the SEC.

"I guess that’s the MO, be really physical," Calipari said. "We’re going to have to figure out how to play through it."

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While Missouri played tougher, it still did not match the strength and size of the Wildcats. The Tigers were out-rebounded 34-26.

BOOKER GETS A RUDE GREETING 

The season’s largest crowd at Mizzou Arena (13,034) let Kentucky freshman Devin Booker know how it felt about him spurning the alma mater of his dad, former Missouri standout Melvin Booker. Booker, recruited heavily by the Tigers, was booed every time he touched the ball. And while it didn’t seem to bother him when he swished his first shot, he was a bit rattled.

Booker missed four of his next five shots and committed four turnovers in a performance that won’t help him win Freshman of the Week in the SEC this week. Booker, who finished with nine points, has won the honor three straight weeks.

"He’s 18 years old, one of the youngest kids in college basketball, and he’s coming to Missouri where his dad played and he’s getting booed," Calipari said. "What do you expect? I should have expected that more. The shots he missed today he usually doesn’t miss, and he missed them badly. He wasn’t shooting in the ocean today."

HOME SWEETER THAN THE ROAD

To give you an idea of how tough Kentucky is, consider the first half: Missouri shot 45.5 percent and trailed 34-25, but the game seemed a little tighter than that. Maybe that’s because the Tigers’ first half was such an improvement over the first 20 minutes in the 87-39 rout at Rupp Arena on Jan. 13. They trailed 44-18 at the intermission in that one.

The Tigers actually took a lead on three occasions in the first half, the last at 17-16 with 7:25 to go. Johnathan Williams III came out stronger than he did in his dismal one-for-13, three-point performance at Lexington. Williams scored the Tigers’ first five points, had seven at the half and finished with 10. Wes Clark bounced back from his costly missed free throws against Arkansas by leading Missouri with a career-best 19 points.

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @StanMcNeal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.