Playing Without MPJ, Mizzou Struggles to Hit Shots in Utah

Seth Pollock, 23 Sports

Two games in, the Missouri basketball program looked like a markedly different product than they had the last three years. In a 77-59 loss at Utah, which extended the Tigers’ road losing streak to 39, they looked more like the Kim Anderson era Tigers.

The story of the game leading up to the game was whether Mizzou’s preseason All-American Michael Porter Jr. would make the trip with the Tigers to Salt Lake City. Thursday morning, the school announced he would not.

That left the challenge up to the remaining Tigers to pick up the slack. Early in the game, Mizzou didn’t look to be up to the task offensively, but neither did the Utes. The two teams combined to miss their first nine shots. Even as Mizzou had little luck getting the ball in the basket, Utah’s struggles made the deficit manageable. With six minutes left in the half, Utah had only a 16-12 lead.

Then the Utes went on a run. Utah outscored the Tigers 23-7 the rest of the half to take a 35-19 lead into the locker room. Donnie Tillman had seven during the run.

Mizzou’s offense was sharper in the second half, but by then it was too late. Utah’s lead never fell below 16 and was extended to 25 at it highest. Some late scoring made the score look more respectable, but Utah walked away with the 77-59 victory.

Porter’s absence could most be felt in the lack of a go to scorer for the Tigers. Senior transfer Kassius Robertson led the team with 12 points, shooting 1/7 from three. Kevin Puryear added 11, and Reed Nikko had the most efficient game for Mizzou, contributing eight on 4/6 shooting. Overall, Missouri shot 34.6% from the field and 18.5% from three.

Besides Porter’s absence, the other main frustration for Tigers fans is Jeremiah Tilman’s inability to stay on the court. In three games, he’s played 41 minutes and fouled out three all times, including in only six minutes against Utah. He went zero for three on field goals with two points off free throws and two rebounds in his limited action Thursday.

Mizzou next takes the court on Monday, November 20th, against Division II Emporia State. The Hornets have played Division I talent twice this year already, having lost exhibitions to Kansas State (77-44) and Iowa State (77-68).