Mizzou had the edge in a lot of places.
The No. 20 Tigers forced 19 turnovers in their road game against Florida on Saturday while only committing 14 themselves. They outscored the Gators 42-26 in the paint. And, for the first time since the season opener against Southern Indiana, Missouri had more offensive rebounds than its opponent, grabbing 10 to Florida’s nine.
Statistics like that usually lead to wins. But they didn’t on Saturday. Missouri slogged through its second-straight poor shooting performance, losing to the Gators inside the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, 73-64.
“The second half, I thought we had wide-open shots, I thought our guys were able to execute the offensive game plan,” head coach Dennis Gates said. “When you have (senior point guard) Nick Honor 0-3 from 3, you have (senior forward) Noah Carter 0-3 from 3, (senior point guard) Sean East over 0-2, I think that would have gave us some confidence if those guys saw that ball go in and those open shots that they were able to take.”
The Tigers appeared ready to right the wrongs of its 82-64 loss to Texas A&M on Wednesday. They opened the game against Florida on an 11-0 run, forcing four turnovers and playing at the frenetic pace that they’re accustomed to.
The Gators (10-7, 3-2 SEC) didn’t let them get too far ahead, though, ending the run with a layup at the 15-minute mark. Florida slowed the game down, forcing Mizzou to play offense in a halfcourt setting, which has troubled the team in its last few games. The hosts knotted the score up at 23-23 at the 4:19 mark and kept it that way going into halftime at 28-28.
Two-time All-SEC senior center Colin Castleton had been held to a modest six points, seven rebounds, two assists a block and a steal through the first half. The Gators leaned on him more in the second and he erupted for another 10 points, six rebounds, four assists, one block and two steals.
The Tigers hung around by getting to the rim, leading to the team’s 46 points in the paint. But Gates thought they should’ve had even more. The presence of Castleton, who stands at 6-foot-11 and averages more than three blocks per game, appeared to cause Mizzou to miss a few of its easier looks. Gates also thought his team should’ve gotten more trips to the free throw line.
“We came away with 15 free throw attempts, and they made 15 free throws altogether and didn’t shoot 100%. So that game is won or lost on a stripe,” Gates said. “And ultimately, we’re a physical team, they’re a physical team. There’s no way to score 42 points in the paint and come away with 15 foul shots. That’s impossible. That just does not make sense.”
Senior forward Kobe Brown led Missouri with 21 points and six rebounds, with Carter chipping in another 12 points and five boards. The team as a whole had its worst shooting performance from deep, going 3-18. It also had a negative assist-to-turnover ratio at 9-to-14.
The Tigers’ missed opportunities, inside and out, cost them the game. It’s the first time they’ve lost back-to-back contests this year. Gates said he hopes his team knows what to expect the next time they go on a two-game road trip.
“The road is tough, guys,” Gates said. “I mean, we gotta look at and understand what the road presents. And you know, I’m not discouraged by my guys, they fought, they played well. But we gotta understand, we’re not going to get the amount of free throws that we should. And I thought we got distracted by that.”
Mizzou’s 11-0 run to open Saturday’s game was ignited in part by Gomillion. After the Tigers went up 5-0, the graduate senior guard stole the ball from the Gators and scored on the fast break. He drew a charge on the next trip down, then assisted Kobe Brown on a layup with the next possession.
“He was involved in every facet of it,” Gates said. “He was very involved on the sideline and I thought in Texas, he wasn’t. So I think he challenged himself, but also, he accepted the challenge from his teammates and his coaches.”
Gomillion finished the game with 11 points, three rebounds, three steals and an assist. He said the way he played in his last game at Texas A&M, in which he had no points, one board and one assist, was a motivating factor.
“On my mind was just to get the win,” Gomillion said. “I know I didn’t do that to help us in Texas, so that was really the main thing on my mind coming in today. And it’s gonna be on my mind coming into Arkansas.”
Freshman forward Aidan Shaw did not play for the first time this season. Gates said Shaw was available and that it was the coach’s decision to not play him.
Junior forward Mohamed Diarra received the playing time usually afforded to Shaw, posting two points, four rebounds and one block in nine minutes.
The Tigers (13-4, 2-3 SEC) return to Mizzou Arena next week to host No. 15 Arkansas (12-5, 1-4) on Wednesday at 8 p.m. and No. 4 Alabama (15-2, 5-0) on Saturday at 5 p.m.
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