(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Steve Helber)
The end to what’s been a disappointing season has finally arrived. The Missouri Tigers men’s basketball team dropped their opening contest in the SEC tournament to the South Carolina Gamecocks 63-54. Freshman guard Montaque Gill-Caesar lead the Tigers as the only player in double figures with 10 points. Johnathan Williams III pitched in with nine points and 11 boards.
Missouri failed to find its offensive stride, while South Carolina capitalized on its first three attempts to take a quick lead 7-2. The Tigers managed to pull the game back within five, but turnovers kept them from establishing any sort of rhythm. Missouri committed 16 turnovers on the night, which the Gamecocks took advantage of to build a sizeable lead.
South Carolina received a strong contribution form sophomore guard Sindarius Thornwell, who dropped 18 points to lead all scorers. Thornwell also helped move the ball to keep the entire Gamecock offense in sync dishing out six assists and shot 4-7 from behind the arc.
Missouri on the other hand drained a mediocre 25 percent of its shots from three-point land putting a dent in any hope of a comeback. Despite the lack of offense the Tigers used a 7-0 run heading into the half and only trailed by six 30-24 at the break.
In the second half the Tigers showed a new energy and nearly came back to take the lead. For the majority of the half Missouri trailed the Gamecocks by a possession, but could never seem to produce the poise to take the lead.
With less than five minutes to play the Gamecocks hit a pair of jumpers to stretch their lead back to eight and never looked back. South Carolina would go on to defeat the Tigers by a score of 63-54.
With the loss the Tigers finish their season with a record of 9-23 and 3-15 in SEC play. Obviously this isn’t an ideal start for first year head coach Kim Anderson, but you have to take your lumps and move on.
This team is beaming with young talent and ready to shake off the freshman jitters, but for now that will have to wait until next year. Who knows what the future holds for this Missouri Tiger team. Will they get better and improve their shots and defense? Or will they crash and burn much like they did this year come late game situations.
There’s a lot to learn and a lot of growing for these guys to do over the next eight months. Hopefully it will pay off and result in a above .500 record next year. Maybe then Missouri can return to the winning ways of old and be respected in both football and basketball in the SEC.