Posted by Ryan Clark at 11:03AM

[2] Missouri Tigers 81, [6] Texas Longhorns 64

All week, the buzz in Kansas City surrounded the impending final game of the famous Border War, a rare third meeting between Kansas and Missouri in the Big 12 Championship. This time, it would be for more than just bragging rights, with the possible prize being a favorable NCAA path through the St. Louis regional. Unfortunately, the Jayhawks didn’t hold up their end of the bargain, falling short against Baylor in the first semifinal on Friday night.

Although Missouri was denied the chance to face their rivals one last time, it didn’t seem to affect their motivation. The Tigers looked like a well-oiled machine against the Longhorns in the second semifinal of the night, coasting to an 81-67 win behind 23 points each from Kim English and Flip Pressey.

Rick Barnes must wait for his NCAA tourney verdict
(Photo credit: Orlin Wagner/Associated Press)

What looked good

The best offense for Texas on Friday night was the putback, as the Horns dominated the second-chance scoring department by a 22-11 count. Texas missed numerous short-range shots, but strong play inside led to gobs of offensive rebounds and extended possessions. The Horns posted an offensive rebounding mark of 50%, their third-best output of the year, and best since a February 4th win over Texas Tech.

Jonathan Holmes, Jaylen Bond, and Clint Chapman were the workhorses on the glass, combining to grab 35% of the offensive rebounding opportunities by themselves. Holmes racked up the putbacks, chalking up 11 points as a result. Bond missed some easy looks inside and finished with just four points, but his tenacity on the glass was huge. Chapman, meanwhile, seemed to always come up with key tip-ins when shots rimmed out.

The Horns also had some flashes of brilliance on the offensive end from Sheldon McClellan. It only happened on a few possessions, but when he took the defender baseline, the Tigers couldn’t keep him in front of them. He finished the night with 10 points in 30 minutes off the bench.

There aren’t many games left in this season, but the key to McClellan’s growth will be whether or not he becomes more aggressive and assertive. This team needs more players pressuring the defense, and he has the skillset to do it. Wherever the Horns head next week for postseason play, they will need McClellan to help Myck Kabongo and J’Covan Brown by attacking the defense with the bounce.

Brown posted 21 points against the Tigers with yet another strong second half, although he gave Texas fans a huge scare in the process. J’Covan made a layup with 16:27 to go that pulled the Horns to within four points, but fell into the row of photographers on the baseline and slammed his head into a camera. Brown was on the floor for what felt like an eternity, but ended up missing only about two minutes of game time. He was still aggressive following his return, scoring 12 of his points after the injury.

Kabongo’s performance was a mixed bag, but he seemed to get better as the game went on. He finished with five assists to just one turnover, but he seemed frazzled by the Missouri defense as the Tigers put on a run in the middle of the first half. After that bad stretch, he played a much more controlled game at the point, and the Longhorns tightened up their ball control.

What needed work

The big problem for Myck on Friday night was an inability to finish inside. That’s been a sticking point for the guard all season long, and quite frankly is the main reason we feel he’d benefit from another year at Texas. Kabongo needs to add some strength to finish through contact, instead of having to try — and usually miss — acrobatic shots through traffic.

As for those turnovers, it felt like a repeat of the game between the two teams in Columbia. Texas coughed it up six times in the first 12 minutes of last night’s game, including four times in a 2:42 stretch. During that brief span, Missouri expanded their lead from two points all the way out to 10, and kept the Longhorns at arm’s reach for the rest of the half. As we mentioned, Texas did a much better job controlling the ball after that disastrous stretch, but the team has very little margin for error against elite teams like Missouri. Every possession has to count if Texas wants to grind out wins against better competition.

On the other end of the court, the Texas defense really struggled. There were a few possessions early in the game where the Horns denied dribble penetration and forced Ricardo Ratliffe off the block, but otherwise the Tigers put on a clinic. Early on, the Longhorns went under the screens for Flip Pressey, a repeat of the deadly mistake they made in Columbia. Once again, the sophomore made Texas pay, drilling three early threes as part of his 23-point night.

The Longhorns also consistently failed to deny penetration, to stop the ball in transition, and to rotate quickly. The poor rotation allowed Missouri to kill them with crisp ball movement all around the court. The Texas defense was always a few seconds behind the ball and the play, leading to tons of open looks for the great Tiger shooters. As a result, they finished 45.5% from behind the arc and posted a 52.6% mark from the field.

In tempo-free terms, Mizzou scored 1.288 points per possession, the second-worst defensive performance for Texas all year. The worst came when the two teams met in Columbia, where the Tigers posted an offensive efficiency mark of 1.306 PPP.

The big picture

Fortunately, it appears that Texas did enough in beating Iowa State on Friday night to make their 14th-consecutive NCAA tournament. Barring any major bid thievery in the next 30 hours, Texas should be safely in the field and could possibly even avoid the First Four in Dayton. While a win over Missouri would have sewn up a bid and eliminated any of the drama from Selection Sunday, Texas at least was able to avoid a demoralizing blowout that could have raised questions about their tournament-worthiness.

Next up: NCAA Bracket Unveiling; Sunday, 5 P.M. CT, CBS

Posted by Ryan Clark at 4:59PM

[6] Texas Longhorns (20-12) vs. [2] Missouri Tigers (28-4)
Sprint Center | Kansas City, MO | Tip: Approx. 9 P.M. CT
TV: Big 12 Network (Affiliate list) & ESPNU (outside of Big 12 markets)
LRT Consecutive Game #219

The Texas Longhorns earned their biggest win of the season last night, dispatching Iowa State in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Championship. The win, combined with numerous losses by other bubble teams, seems to have the Longhorns safely in the NCAA field for now. Tonight’s third tussle with Missouri offers Texas a chance to completely lock up that dance ticket, as a win would give the Horns five against RPI Top 50 opponents. Fortunately, the Horns still look to be in good shape for the NCAAs with a loss in tonight’s game, as long as it remains competitive.

Meet the Tigers

For an in-depth look at the Missouri roster and their style of play, check out LRT’s preview of the first game between these two teams.

The first meeting

Missouri knocked off Texas by an 84-73 count when the teams met at Mizzou Arena on January 14th. Read LRT’s recap of the game for a full breakdown.

The second meeting

When the two schools met in Austin on January 30th, the final few minutes offered nail-biting excitement. The Longhorns erased a 10-point deficit in less than four minutes and even took a lead in the final seconds. Michael Dixon was the hero for the Tigers, though, putting in an impressive game-winning shot with 31 seconds to go. For a full recap of the action in that game, click here for the LRT post-game.

Keys to the game

1) Limit the turnovers – The Longhorns made things difficult in both games against Missouri by wasting first-half possessions. In the first meeting, Texas coughed it up on 22% of their possessions, with two frustrating ones coming during a first-half Mizzou rally that built the lead to double-digits. When the teams met again in Austin, the Horns ended nearly a quarter of their first-half possessions with turnovers. There is little margin for error if Texas wants an upset tonight, so they will have to exhibit the same kind of ball control they had in the win over Iowa State last night.

2) Get a big game from the bigs – Texas will once again be without Alexis Wangmene, who had surgery on his wrist earlier this week. Fortunately, the Tigers typically run a four-out, one-in look, so that hole in the frontcourt won’t be as big of an issue as it could be. Texas needs Clint Chapman to avoid fouls and give another warrior performance like he did against Iowa State. Jonathan Holmes averaged eight boards and 23 minutes in his two games against Missouri, so Texas will be looking for similar output from the freshman tonight.

3) Limit dribble penetration – In the first game, it was Flip Pressey that dissected the Texas defense. In the second, it was Dixon who repeatedly shook J’Covan Brown and lit up the scoreboard. Missouri is great at penetrating with the bounce and getting easy looks for Ricardo Ratliffe or open threes for their dead-eye shooters. When teams take away that penetration — and it’s extraordinarily tough to do against Missouri — the Tiger offense no longer looks unstoppable. If the Longhorns can limit the damage done by the drivers, they should be able to hang tough and challenge the Tigers.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 10:26AM

#4/4 Missouri Tigers 67, Texas Longhorns 66

If the sport were horseshoes or hand grenades, these Texas Longhorns would be All-Stars. Instead, Texas fans were treated to another verse of the same old song, as their team made another furious late-game comeback, only to come up short in a 67-66 loss.

Down 10 with just less than four minutes left, the Longhorns quickly erased the deficit, taking the lead on a leaner by J’Covan Brown with 56 seconds to go. Missouri’s Michael Dixon responded on the other end, tossing in a layup with 31 seconds left to put the Tigers back on top.

Myck Kabongo’s final shot couldn’t find the mark
(Photo credit: Michael Thomas/Associated Press)

On the final possession, Texas spread the floor against a surprise zone defense, with the ball coming to Brown with just over 12 seconds left on the clock. The Tigers pushed out in a two-man trap, and Brown whipped a cross-court pass to Myck Kabongo, who had to leap to keep the ball in play. His baseline drive and jumper fell short, and Texas dropped to 0-7 in games decided by six points or less.

What looked good

The Texas defense in the first half was stifling. After being torched early in the teams’ first meeting in Columbia, the Longhorns were prepared to shut down the nation’s second-best offense. Texas defenders stayed in the shirts of the Missouri shooters on the perimeter, forcing them to pass it around.

Although there were a few possessions in which a Tiger slashed to the rack unchallenged, it was a vast improvement over the first meeting between the two teams. In fact, the Tigers were held to just 0.834 points per possession in the first half, well off their season average of 1.22.

The Longhorns capitalized on that tough defense by closing out possessions with rebounds. They dominated the glass on both ends of the floor, limiting Missouri to an offensive rebounding percentage of just 21.4%, while reclaiming 44.4% of their own misses. That workmanlike effort on the boards equated to a sizeable 22-6 advantage for Texas in second chance points.

Freshman Jonathan Holmes was the team leader in boards, snagging nine on the night. His effort on the glass led to easy putback points, and he was able to log seven points for the game. Unfortunately, he also led the team in turnovers with five, which was absolutely crippling in a game decided by one point.

Fellow freshman Jaylen Bond was also tenacious inside. He ripped down seven rebounds in just 14 minutes on the court and came up with two clutch buckets following offensive rebounds. Tempo-free stats underscore just how important Bond was during his short time on the court, as his personal offensive rebounding percentage was an incredible 23.8%, while his defensive was 40.8%.

The Longhorns also benefitted from aggressive play by Julien Lewis, who repeatedly attacked with drives from the corner. He started coming on strong in the second half of the Baylor game, and that confidence seemed to carry over into this one. Lewis led the way early for the Horns, seeming to be the only consistent scorer in a first half where the team had troubling putting the ball in the hoop. In the end, the freshman finished with 12 points on 44% shooting, a much more efficient contribution than his early performances in Big 12 play.

Julien Lewis attacked the rim for Texas
(Photo credit: Michael Thomas/Associated Press)

Big men Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene were a big part of Lewis’ success in this one, providing solid seals on the help defense when he drove to the rim. Chapman also showed off some agility with a few nice post moves, scoring six points in just 23 minutes on the court.

What needed work

Unfortunately, the fifth-year senior also had some tough moments on defense. In the first half, he let Ricardo Ratliffe establish very deep post position on a lob entry that had Coach Rick Barnes absolutely livid. He called an immediate timeout and angrily motioned Chapman to the bench with a jerk of the thumb. In the second half, Chapman was so intent on not letting Ratliffe get another easy bucket that he actually backed off a driving Tiger guard to prevent the dumpoff pass, instead giving up an uncontested layup.

Brown also played matador defense, although his struggles were much more consistent than Chapman’s. In the second half, he allowed Dixon to score in bunches. In the post-game press conference, Brown told the media, “I basically gave up half his points.” He couldn’t stay in front of Missouri’s speedy sixth man, letting Dixon spark a second-half scoring explosion for the Tigers.

Texas also did itself no favors with another rash of turnovers. In the first half, the Longhorns managed just 22 points, due in large part to a turnover rate close to 25%. For the game, Texas was able to push that mark down to just 19.9%, but those 13 miscues turned into 14 Tiger points. Perhaps the most frustrating was a second-half turnover by Myck Kabongo, who compounded his error by intentionally fouling Phil Pressey to give the Tigers two shots and the ball.

The Texas offense didn’t just bog down solely due to turnovers. The Longhorns often tried to establish Chapman or Wangmene in the post, but entry passes from the wing were simply not available. Typically, the big would then move out to the perimeter to set a ball screen, but the driving lanes were usually cut off by Missouri defenders.

Instead of reacting to the Tiger defense with quick ball movement, the Longhorns spread out the floor and played isolation basketball. With the team’s only buckets coming from one-on-one drives and offensive putbacks, Texas actually headed to the locker room without a single assist. They didn’t do much better in the second half, adding just five assists, one of them coming on a three-man fast-break.

For the third consecutive game, free throws were an albatross for the Longhorns. The team shot just 66.7% from the line, leaving eight freebies on the table. Texas did a great job of attacking and earning trips to the line, but did not take advantage of their edge in free throw attempts. You could even say the Longhorns left a ninth point at the line, as one of those misses came when Wangmene couldn’t hit the front end of a one-and-one.

In the last three games, the Longhorns have made just 63.2% of their free throws, a sharp decline from the season average of 73.2% that they carried into the first of those three games. For much of the season, the one thing that the Texas offense could count on was an ability to manufacture points at the line. Instead, trips to the charity stripe have become a scary proposition during the most important part of the season.

Finally, it must be noted that once again the Longhorns looked completely lost on the final possession of a close game. It’s one thing to lose a lot of close ones when the breaks just don’t go your way, but Texas has repeatedly failed to get good looks late in the game. The final possession against Kansas State resulted in a turnover and fast-break bucket, while Brown felt that his last-second three against Baylor wasn’t a bad look, despite Coach Barnes telling him the exact opposite.

Against the Tigers, the Longhorns had a play drawn up for both man and zone defenses. The Tigers came out in a zone look, and Texas spread the floor. Coach Barnes told the media that players weren’t making their cuts, which led to the breakdown. What he didn’t explain to reporters was why he didn’t use the team’s final timeout to regroup once he saw the players failing to make hard cuts. The Longhorns had more than 20 seconds left on the clock at the start of that final possession, but wasted thirteen of them before Brown’s risky cross-court pass set up Kabongo for his missed final shot.

The big picture

Clint Chapman and the Horns need a quick turnaround
(Photo credit: Michael Thomas/Associated Press)

Texas is rapidly running out of opportunities to log a signature win, with just two games against Top 5 opponents left on the docket. During the final two weeks of the season, the Longhorns host Baylor and travel to Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas State also travels to the Erwin Center on February 11th, but their recent slide has nearly sent them out of the RPI Top 50.

Texas has almost no margin for error at this point, essentially needing to win every game outside of the Baylor and Kansas match-ups. The odds aren’t in their favor, as the Longhorns still have road trips left to A&M, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. Despite all three programs having down years, those teams still defend their home court well, and a Texas road win is far from a guarantee.

If the Longhorns pulled off the improbable run and beat everyone left on the schedule not named Kansas or Baylor, it would put them at 20-9 overall. Even though losses to the Jayhawks and Bears would give them a respectable 20-11 record in this hypothetical, the Longhorns would still be left with just two or three wins against the RPI Top 50, with Temple being the team’s best win on the year.

The odds are long for Texas at this point, but with nine games left on the season, you can’t write Texas off just yet. If they can learn from all of these close losses and regroup in time to attack the favorable back half of their league slate, perhaps the Longhorns can finally put together a run.

Up next: vs. Texas Tech (7-13 overall, 0-8 Big 12); Saturday, 6 P.M. CT

Posted by Ryan Clark at 2:00PM

#4/4 Missouri Tigers (19-2 overall, 6-2 Big 12) at Texas Longhorns (13-8, 3-5)
Frank Erwin Center | Austin, TX | Tip: 8 P.M. CT | TV: ESPN
LRT Consecutive Game #208

In a season where the Texas Longhorns are at risk of losing their 13-year streak of NCAA tournament appearances, the young team has had more than its fair share of chances to notch marquee wins. On the road against Kansas State and Baylor, the Horns had the ball on the final possession with a chance to tie the game. Both times, Texas failed to come up with the clutch basket. At home against Kansas, the Longhorns led by four with 3:24 to play, but didn’t score another field goal en route to a crushing loss.

All of this late-game futility adds up to an 0-6 record in games decided by two possessions or less, a stat that will haunt Longhorn fans if their team ends up on the wrong side of the bubble. Texas is now just 1-5 in games against the RPI Top 50, an important metric used by the NCAA Selection Committee. Thanks to Iowa State’s upset win over Kansas, the Longhorns can add one more Top 50 win if the Cyclones can climb at least two spots in today’s RPI update.

Kim English and the Tigers have looked shaky lately
(Photo credit: L.G. Patterson/Associated Press)

Without knowing who Texas will face in the Big 12 Tournament, it appears that the Horns have four more opportunities against RPI Top 50 squads, with three of them coming at home. The next chance for a résumé-building win comes tonight, in the form of the Missouri Tigers. It may seem early to start calling games “must-wins,” but the Longhorns are quickly running out of time to make their case. Texas needs to get over the hump and start turning these close losses into big-time wins.

Meet the Tigers

For an in-depth look at the Missouri players, stats, and tendencies, check out the preview from the first game between these two teams.

The first meeting

Texas opened in a zone defense against the Tigers, and Missouri quickly made the Horns pay with an incredible 73% mark from behind the arc in the first 20 minutes. Texas fell behind by as much as 16 points in the first half, compounding the poor perimeter defense with a string of miscues on offense. The Longhorns ended 22% of their possessions with a turnover, including back-to-back first-half possessions that ended on a shot clock violation and a five-count.

Even with the turnovers, Texas posted one of its most efficient offensive performances in conference play. The Longhorns scored 1.135 points per possession, the second-best mark achieved against the Tigers all year. J’Covan Brown was a huge part of the success, scoring 34 points on 62.5% shooting from the field, including an 85.7% mark from long range. Myck Kabongo also came up big for the Horns, aggressively attacking the lane as he logged his first collegiate double-double.

For the Tigers, Flip Pressey was the catalyst. He scored seven points in a 50-second stretch just after the Longhorns had cut the lead to five in the second half, effectively icing the win for his team. Just a 26% three-point shooter on the season, he drilled 3-of-7 against the Horns and consistently sliced up the Longhorn defense, scoring 18 to go with 10 assists. Ricardo Ratliffe was the main benefactor of the great Missouri guard penetration, scoring 21 points on a 10-of-12 shooting day.

Since then…

Ricardo Ratliffe has become a monster for Mizzou
(Photo credit: Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press)

Ratliffe hasn’t slowed down since the win over Texas, earning Big 12 Conference Player of the Week honors for dominating performances against Texas A&M and Baylor. The big man scored 17 points and grabbed boards against the Aggies, then followed it up with a career-high 27 points in the road win over the Bears.

On Wednesday night, the Tigers suffered their second conference loss in a game where the importance of Ratliffe’s efficiency in the paint was underscored. Although he scored 25 points in the loss, his string of superhuman shooting percentages came to an end with a 10-of-17 line against Oklahoma State. It was the first time since the season opener that Ratliffe had missed more than three shots in a game.

The Tigers followed up the loss with a surprisingly close game against Texas Tech at home. The Red Raiders actually held the Tigers to just 1.03 points per possession, the team’s worst offensive efficiency number in their 19 wins. Tech limited Ratliffe to an eight-point, four-rebound afternoon, forcing the Missouri guards to carry the team. Kim English responded and knocked down 4-of-6 from behind the arc, but the rest of the Tigers were just 2-for-15 from long range. Missouri still held on for a 13-point win over the Red Raiders, but looked rather vulnerable heading into an important week where they travel to Texas and host Kansas.

Keys to the game

1) Stop dribble penetration – The four-guard look from Missouri was practically impossible for the Longhorns to stop when the teams met in Columbia earlier this month. As a result, the scrambling Texas defense was consistently out of position in the paint, leading to easy hoops for the guards and tons of points for Ratliffe. The Longhorns must stop the ball tonight and force the Tigers to beat them with contested jumpers, or else they will find themselves in another shootout with the nation’s second-most efficient offense.

2) Keep the backcourt humming – Both Brown and Kabongo had solid outings against Missouri the first time around, and both performed very well at Baylor on Saturday afternoon. If the pair of Longhorn guards can continue that high level of play against the Tigers tonight, the team should be able to find the same kind of offensive success that they did at Mizzou Arena. Throw in a little bit of defense, and that couldbe enough for a win this time around.

3) Chapman must avoid the whistles – In addition to the dribble penetration, the foul trouble that kept Clint Chapman on the bench gave Ratliffe and Steve Moore a hall pass in the lane. Chapman was again hounded by personals in the loss to Baylor on Saturday, and you can be sure that the Tigers will attack him tonight. The big man will have to be smart with his fouls and maximize his minutes if the Longhorns want to earn the upset.

4) Win the battle on the glass – Texas actually did a good job keeping Missouri off of the offensive glass during the first meeting, holding the Tigers to an offensive rebounding mark below 29%. Unfortunately, there weren’t many missed shots from Mizzou, so that strong performance on the boards didn’t amount to much. If the Longhorns can actually force some misses in this one, another solid night on the glass will make things much tougher for the Tigers this time around. The Horns should also be able to capitalize on the offensive end, as they reclaimed 47.1% of their misses in the first game and turned those extra chances into 17 points.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 10:13AM

#9/9 Missouri Tigers 84, Texas Longhorns 73

The last time Frank Haith met his mentor Rick Barnes on the hardwood, the Longhorns knocked off the Miami Hurricanes in Little Rock and booked a trip to the Sweet 16. The Hurricanes put up a good fight that afternoon at Alltel Arena, but came up just short in the final minutes.

This time around, the Tigers made absolutely certain that Haith earned the victory against his former boss. Missouri shot 54% from the field, including an incredible 73% mark from behind the arc in the first half, and ultimately defeated the Longhorns by 11 in the final conference meeting at Mizzou Arena between the two schools.

Texas found itself in a deep hole in the first half thanks to Mizzou’s superhuman performance from behind the arc, falling behind by as much as 16 late in the half. The Longhorns clawed back, however, slicing the Tiger lead down to just five with a little over nine minutes left in the game.

J’Covan Brown carried Texas with his 34 points
(Photo credit: L.G. Patterson/Associated Press)

Seconds later, J’Covan Brown split his lip while committing a foul and headed to the bench. With the Longhorns missing their leader, Missouri’s Phil Pressey took over, scoring seven points in 50 seconds to end any threat of a comeback by Texas.

What looked good

Despite the final outcome, the performance by J’Covan Brown was one of his best as a Longhorn. At times, he still appeared to be bothered by the ankle injury that has dogged him since the Iowa State game on January 4th. Even with that nuisance, Brown posted 34 points in the loss, drilling 6-of-7 from long range while also knocking down all eight free throws. J’Covan has now made his last 19 free throws, a streak stretching back to the end of the first half against Oklahoma State.

Freshman Myck Kabongo also performed well in the loss, logging the first double-double of his short career. Kabongo finished with 12 points and 10 assists, with a majority of his buckets coming on aggressive drives to the basket. There were still some questionable drives where he put himself in a bad situation, but for the most part he was wise about when to attack. That is something that has been an issue for him all season, so hopefully this is a sign that the light bulb is starting to illuminate for the freshman.

Big man Clint Chapman also continued his recent trend of steady performances, although foul trouble dogged him for much of the game. The senior picked up his second personal less than five minutes into the game, and he was relegated to the bench for the remainder of the half. He certainly had his difficulties in this one, bobbling a pair of passes that cost the team possessions, but he did good work on the glass and knocked down a free-throw line jumper without hesitation. There is no question that the team looked better with Chapman on the floor, so he will have to avoid the whistles if the Longhorns want to win against physical teams in the Big 12.

While Chapman did well on the glass, it was actually Jonathan Holmes who led the team with seven rebounds. Alexis Wangmene also grabbed four offensive boards, as the Horns posted excellent rebounding percentages on both ends of the floor. Texas secured 47.1% of their missed shots, the second-best number put up against the Tigers all season long.

When Missouri actually missed shots, Texas also did a good job limiting their second chances, holding the Tigers to just a 28.6% rebounding percentage. That number might not seem impressive against a team playing a four-guard lineup, but the way that Ricardo Ratliffe and Steve Moore were imposing their will in the paint, it was rather surprising to see.

Although it was overshadowed by how well Missouri played, the Longhorns actually had one of their most efficient outings of the season on offense. That number was buoyed by Brown’s dead-eye marksmanship from behind the arc, but Texas still scored 1.135 points per possession, the best performance by a Missouri opponent this year.

Texas couldn’t slow down Denmon and Missouri
(Photo credit: Rich Sugg/The Kansas City Star)

What needed work

That offensive efficiency number could have been even more impressive had the Longhorns avoided frustrating turnovers. Texas coughed it up 14 times on the day, ending nearly 22% of their possessions with turnovers. While many came on errant passes, the most frustrating errors were a shot clock violation and five-count that came on back-to-back possessions as Missouri pulled away late in the first half. Texas is going to face teams that are much more talented than them in the next two-plus weeks, so they simply cannot afford to waste possessions.

While the turnovers were frustrating for Longhorn fans, the defense was downright infuriating. Texas came out in a zone, and the Tigers immediately lit them up behind the arc. Even when the Longhorns switched to a man defense, they still elected to go under screens against Flip Pressey. Coming into the game, the younger Pressey was just a 26% shooter from behind the arc, so that decision is hard to fault. Unfortunately, on Saturday afternoon, Flip was possessed by the spirit of J.J. Redick and he killed Texas with three clutch triples. When the Tigers weren’t drilling threes, constant penetration by the guards drew the defense, leaving Ratliffe alone underneath for countless easy buckets.

On the other end of the floor, Julien Lewis followed up his solid performance against Texas A&M with yet another abysmal day from the floor. Lewis was consistently able to find his way to the paint and had excellent elevation above the defense to pop his jump shot. Of course, space and elevation only go so far when you knock down just 1-of-10 from the floor.

Lewis started hot out of the gate for the Longhorns this season, scoring 18 in his debut against Boston University. He’s shown the ability to score in bunches, but at this point, it’s painfully clear that he is a very streaky player. In games where he has taken at least five shots, Julien has posted a shooting percentage above 35% just five times. Nine times he has been below that mark, including three that were below 15%. If Lewis hits some of his early shots in future games, give him the green light. But when he comes out cold, he has to realize it’s not his night and defer to teammates.

The Longhorns had a hard time finishing inside
(Photo credit: Rich Sugg/The Kansas City Star)

Texas also struggled converting some really easy looks, missing at the rim on multiple occasions in the first half. Sheldon McClellan failed to finish on two different fast-break opportunities, which only fueled the Mizzou Arena crowd and added to the Tiger momentum. Easy points are few and far between in conference play, so the Longhorns have to make those opportunities count.

The big picture

In the grand scheme of things, this loss isn’t a killer. We’ve repeatedly discussed just how brutal this three-week stretch of the schedule will be for Texas. The Longhorns still need to add a few quality wins to the résumé before Selection Sunday, and yesterday’s performance should at least give their fans some hope that perhaps they could spring an upset on the Tigers in the rematch at the Erwin Center on January 30th.

Texas still must beat Iowa State at home on January 24th, and would benefit from stealing another win or two in their upcoming games against K-State, Kansas, Baylor, and Missouri. The sky is not falling yet, but the Longhorns will have to surprise someone in the near future to feel more comfortable about their tournament chances.

Up next: at #18/18 Kansas State (12-4 overall, 1-3 Big 12)

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