It was a record-breaking Saturday afternoon for Missouri men’s basketball at Alabama.
Inside Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, the Tigers went 31-for-31 from the free-throw line, setting the Southeastern Conference record for most free-throw attempts without a miss and falling three short of the NCAA record.
Missouri still lost by double digits.
The Crimson Tide navigated through foul trouble to key players James “Beetle” Bolden, Kira Lewis Jr. and Herbert Jones to take down the Tigers 88-74.
Missouri cut its deficit to three points on three different occasions in the second half but never led throughout the final 35 minutes.
The Tigers fall to 9-8 overall and 1-4 in the SEC. The Crimson Tide improve to 10-7 overall and 3-2 in league play.
“This is one of those things you have to learn from — a painful, painful lesson,” Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin said of the loss. “... I thought we had it right there, but just couldn’t get it in the end.”
Alabama’s John Petty Jr. led all scorers with 20 points. Missouri had four players in double figures. Dru Smith paced the Tigers with 18 points, followed by Mark Smith with 15. Xavier Pinson and Kobe Brown added 11 points each.
Martin said the Tigers had about 70 paint touches in the game by driving to the hoop with the ball, a significant rise from the team’s previous season high of 40.
But a Missouri guard didn’t make a field goal for the final 7:30, with the Tigers only making three shots during that span overall — two from Reed Nikko and one from Mitchell Smith. MU attempted 19 shots during that stretch.
Martin said using positive moments to get over the hump of scoring droughts and defensive lapses is key to success.
“It’s the mental discipline, the focus, the concentration, the attention to detail that is very important every possession down,” Martin said. “Maybe one guy has to step up and say, ‘Every assignment down, this is what we’re doing.’”
Missouri is the first SEC team to reach four losses in conference play and did so by giving up the fourth-most points in a single game during Martin's tenure. Missouri gave up 92 and 91, respectively, to Auburn over the past two seasons. Mississippi scored 90 in a 2018 overtime game.
While breaking records from the free-throw line is nice, four SEC losses in five tries have lowered the Tigers' chances of making the NCAA Tournament come March.
For the first time this season, Brown didn’t start the game. Javon Pickett took his spot alongside the trio of Smiths and Nikko. Pickett finished with zero points on 0-for-5 shooting from the floor in 30 minutes.
Missouri is scheduled to return to action at 8 p.m. Tuesday with a home game against Texas A&M. Then the Tigers head back on the road for their final nonconference game of the regular season as part of the Big 12/SEC challenge against West Virginia.