(Photo by Jeff Roberson/Associated Press)
On it’s face, a 68-63 loss to a superior Illinois team shouldn’t seem that bad. Take into account a 20 point deficit and eight more turnovers, it just adds to the mess that has been Missouri’s season so far.
With the win, the Illini have 3 straight victories over the Tigers in the Braggin’ Rights rivalry in St. Louis. Illinois improves to 8-5 while Mizzou falls under .500 at 5-6.
Wes Clark picked a good half to have his career game. Despite five turnovers early in the game, he put his team on his back to make this a very competitive basketball game down the stretch. He finished with 21 points, a career high.
When Missouri fell behind 50-30, it looked like the game I imagined. However instead of reeling it in, the Tigers came back on a 15-0 run to make it a five point game.
The run was in due to, in large part, a scoring drought for the Illini that lasted 9:23. They decided to go away from stars Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill for some reason and just couldn’t hit anything.
There we saw pretty good basketball from Clark, Jakeenan Gant, and Russell Woods. It looked like an offense with some identity.
As soon as Mizzou brought it within three, the teams just traded baskets. At that point, it was too little too late for Missouri.
From there, the Tigers played the foul game and Illinois didn’t disappoint in their free throws.
Yeah this game couldn’t have turned out worse for Missouri, but there aren’t any more moral victories for this team. They’ve had too many of those last season and it has yet to translate to any real victories.
It’s time for this team to play a complete game, something they haven’t done all season. No more falling behind 20 points, that is simply unacceptable.
I’ve been hard on Wes Clark throughout the season, though tonight may have been the turning point for him. He showed some real leadership, and a “I’m not letting this team lose” attitude that Mizzou desperately needed.
Moving forward, hopefully Clark’s second half attitude rubs off on the team. I can imagine that not playing with a 20 point deficit will make things much easier for this team.
The Tigers are off until next Tuesday as they return to Mizzou Arena to take on Arkansas Pine-Bluff. Afterwards, they wrap up their non-conference slate against Savannah State.