This game looked like a lot of our wins earlier in the season, slow and sloppy at times, but a strong finish to finally put the game away.
Mizzou actually jumped out to an early 7-2 lead, but we were able to bounce back and take a narrow 26-24 lead into halftime. For the first 30 minutes or so of the game, it seemed like we couldn't finish around the rim, couldn't make our free throws, and had too many unforced turnovers. Our saving grace was that Mizzou played even worse. I think I counted 6 air-balls from them in this game, and even more unforced turnovers of their own.
With the shots not falling, we started attacking the basket and were able to get to the line, where we made our free throws down the stretch. As expected, Ricky Tarrant did not play. He was limping, but at least is off the c
Levi had another great game. I thought his 3 pointer with about 9 minutes left to stretch the lead to 8 was one of the key plays in the game. It was a slow, methodical game, and with the Mizzou's poor shooting the lead seemed nearly insurmountable. Retin played with great effort on both ends of the floor, and contributed with 12 points and 8 rebounds. Shannon Hale started again and had another great game. He scored 10 points, but more importantly he stepped up and played great defense, a part of his game that has been lacking this year. He's strung together a couple of good games now, so hopefully his slump is over and the momentum will continue. Jimmie Taylor managed to stay on the court; we will need him to do the same Saturday if we have any chance.
We are a much better team than Mizzou. I'm never one to complain about a win, but this game should not have been in doubt with 8 or 9 minutes remaining. I believe we could have run them out of the gym if we would have forced the tempo a bit. Frankly, this game was painfully boring to watch.
The crowd was as bad as I can ever remember for an SEC game. I would estimate there was no more than 5,000 there. Mizzou probably had about 150 fans scattered throughout, including their cheerleaders who inexplicably made the trip to sit way up in one of the corners. The atmosphere was dead and quiet, with many fans around us openly discussing their desire for a coaching change. For the first time all season, I spotted Bill Battle at a home game. The only other basketball game I'm aware of him attending was the one in Knoxville. I suppose now that the important business of obsessing over where 17 year old football players will attend college has concluded, he can turn his attention to hoops for a couple of weeks.
Up next, our Feline diet continues as we are served with another portion of Tiger Meat, this time of the Bayou Bengal variety in Baton Rouge. It's a horrible matchup for us, as they have a dominant front-court, but a win would at least temporarily restore some hope to the season. Tip-off is set for 5 pm on ESPN2.