Illinois Illini Kendrick Nunn goes in for the layup past Missouri Tigers Wes Clark in the first half of the Annual Braggin Rights basketball game at Scottrade Center in St. Louis on December 23, 2015. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

Jake Cookson, 23 Sports

Wednesday, December 23-

The Missouri Tigers men’s basketball team dropped its third straight game Wednesday night in a 68-63 loss against Illinois. This loss came during the annual Braggin’ Rights game, of which the Tigers have lost 12 of the previous 16 matchups.

Attendance of 14,456 was a record low for the event in St. Louis, as both teams came into the matchup ranked in the bottom of their respective divisions. The previous low was 19,586 in 2008.

The teams’ poor starts to the year reflected their offensive performances in the first half. Both teams struggled to get anything going. Illinois started the game shooting an abysmal 2-for-10, with eight of those shots coming from behind the arc. Mizzou gained the advantage with defensive rebounds, but missed three consecutive breakaway layups to keep the game close.

Poor shooting continued to rule the first half until Illinois head coach John Groce decided to slow down the offense. Missouri’s young defense showed its lack of experience. The Tigers allowed Illinois to go on a 26-8 run and open up a 14-point lead with 4 minutes left in the first half.

Most of these points were caused by Missouri turnovers, as the frustration was evident on offense for the Tigers who allowed 9 turnovers in the first 20 minutes.

Coming out of the half, the Tigers’ offense was once again riddled with turnovers, allowing the Fighting Illini to control the game on both ends of the court. The Tigers began to look apathetic, jogging down the court and giving up open shots on defense.

After a Mizzou timeout, the Tigers took the court looking as though they had a newfound energy. Junior Wes Clark lead the charge for a 15-0 run to cut the deficit to 5. This run was complimented with a great performance defensively, as Missouri caused Illinois to come up empty on 14 straight offensive drives that stretched over a 9-minute span.

The Scottrade Center was erupting with noise from fans on both sides as the teams began to exchange blows offensively. Illinois clung to a firm 6-point lead throughout. Missouri would pull within 4 points of the Illini, but thanks to Illinois’ 83 percent free throw accuracy in the final minutes, Mizzou was unable to bring the Braggin’ Rights trophy back to the Show Me State.

With the loss, Missouri falls to 5-6 on the season. Illinois advances to 8-5. The Tigers have a quick holiday break before taking on Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2-11) on Tuesday, Dec. 29, at 8 p.m. at Mizzou Arena.

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