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Five things we learned in No. 10 Mizzou basketball's 80-59 loss at Ole Miss

Eric Blum
Columbia Daily Tribune

Second halves in the state of Mississippi just aren't good for Missouri men's basketball. 

A little over a month after the Tigers were outscored by 27 points at Mississippi State in the final 20 minutes, a similar lull surfaced at The Pavilion at Ole Miss. 

Mississippi came out of halftime making buckets at a torrid pace, turning a five-point lead into an 80-59 victory over No. 10 Missouri in Oxford on Wednesday night. The Tigers were outscored by 16 in the second half.

Ole Miss finished the game shooting 57% from the floor, and that percentage was above 60% for a heavy majority of the night. 

Jarkel Joiner paced all scorers with 21 points for the Rebels, while Ole Miss' Devontae Shuler and Luis Rodriguez finished with 15 apiece. 

Dru Smith led Missouri in scoring once again with 17 points. Javon Pickett scored 10 points as the only other Tiger in double figures, coming off the bench for the second straight game.

In the past 46 minutes of game time, dating to Missouri's near-collapse against Alabama, the Tigers have been outscored by 38 points. 

Missouri posted its worst free-throw performance of the season, finishing 5-for-15, including 2 of 9 in the second half. 

The Tigers fall to 13-4 overall and 6-4 in the Southeastern Conference. Ole Miss improves to 11-8 overall and 6-6 in league play. 

Missouri is scheduled to return to action for the annual Rally for Rhyan game on Saturday at home against Arkansas. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. on ESPN2.

Here are five things we learned in Missouri's loss to Ole Miss: 

Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin reacts during the first half against Mississippi on Wednesday at The Pavilion at Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss.

1. This was Missouri's worst game of the season

The Tigers experienced a few letdowns before Wednesday, but losing by more than 20 in a winnable road game as a top-10 team stings badly.

Loss No. 1 of the season was Tennessee showing why it was the SEC preseason favorite. On Jan. 5 against Mississippi State, Missouri played great for the first 20 minutes, leaving glimmers of hope out of that defeat. 

Missouri's most recent loss two weeks ago against Auburn was more about Sharife Cooper showing his NBA potential than Missouri playing poorly. 

The loss to the Rebels provided none of those silver linings, and Tigers head coach Cuonzo Martin expressed as much afterward.

"Just didn't have that edge that we normally have and it's unfortunate, it really is," Martin said. "And then I thought we took some quick, off-balance shots. Some guys have got to do a better job of setting the physical tone, and we didn't do it tonight."

Wednesday marked Missouri's third straight loss in games directly after moving into the top 15 of the country this season.

Mississippi guard Jarkel Joiner (24) shoots in front of Missouri guard Xavier Pinson (1) during a game Wednesday night in Oxford, Miss.

2. Ole Miss' shooters were hot, and MU contributed to that

The Rebels shot 70% (21-for-30) from 2-point range, building up points to rout Missouri. 

Ole Miss produced 18 bench points, 1.31 points per possession, 12 second-chance points and nine points off a dozen Missouri turnovers.

In their past 23 games entering Wednesday night, the Tigers held opponents under 80 points 21 times — the exceptions being their loss to Auburn and overtime victory over TCU in recent weeks.

Missouri's past five games have seen Martin's revered gritty defensive style go by the wayside for long stretches. While the Tigers play faster this season and that can contribute to higher-scoring games, they're uncharacteristically lax defensively.

"It's hard to run the way you run when a team's shooting (57%) from the field. That means they're making baskets," Martin said. "So we didn't defend at the level we need to defend at and we paid for it."

Missouri guard Dru Smith (12) is defended by Mississippi forward Sammy Hunter (23) and guard Jarkel Joiner, right, during a game Wednesday in Oxford, Miss.

3. The rebounding differential is indicative of much more

Ole Miss outrebounded Missouri 34-19.

The Rebels posted 25 defensive rebounds and nine on the offensive glass compared to the Tigers' 14 defensive boards and five offensive. 

No individual for either team recorded more than six rebounds, but every Ole Miss player who logged more than a minute had at least two boards. Missouri had several outliers to that statistic.

"I think rebounding definitely usually shows what your effort looked like, especially the offensive rebounds," Smith said. "That's just will, going to the basket and trying to get the ball. So I think definitely rebounding is something that you can look at and usually tell how the game's going."

Missouri forward Jeremiah Tilmon (23) shoots over Mississippi forward Romello White (0) during a game Wednesday night in Oxford, Miss.

4. Tigers need more plot points for stars

Jeremiah Tilmon and Xavier Pinson are likely Missouri's most-ready players for the NBA. Neither of them showed it against Ole Miss. 

Tilmon had only four field-goal attempts, making two, combined with a 2-for-6 performance from the free-throw line for six points.

"No. 1, be more aggressive," Martin said of where Tilmon could've been better. "I think him missing some free throws probably slowed him up as far as being aggressive. ... Also, the double (team) coming different ways. He knew it was coming, shooters have got to be ready. I think he had one or two turnovers when they did double."

Pinson committed a team-high four turnovers and finished 3-for-11 from the field overall (0 of 5 from 3-point range) for six points.

"I just think he's got to be aggressive in getting downhill and I thought he settled a lot on the perimeter. He didn't attack the rim at all," Martin said of Pinson. "... And in a lot of ways, when he's not doing it, we become stagnant because you count on it."

Missouri guard Mark Smith (13) attempts a layup between Mississippi guards Luis Rodriguez, left, and Jarkel Joiner during a game Wednesday in Oxford, Miss.

5. Missouri's long-term outlook doesn't change, yet

While Missouri inevitably will fall in next week's rankings no matter how Saturday's game against Arkansas goes, the Tigers remain firmly in the NCAA Tournament. 

Still on the table: a top-four seed in the SEC Tournament, which gives it a double bye.

There's also a chance for a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament, allowing the Tigers to play lower-ranked teams until the second weekend, should they advance that far. 

But Missouri can't take too many more losses like it had against Ole Miss.

Contact Eric Blum at eblum@columbiatribune.com. Follow @ByEricBlum on Twitter.

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