December 24, 2008

Same Old Story

All year, this Tiger team has been different. On Tuesday night in St. Louis, an old theme reared its ugly head.

"They wanted it more than we did and it showed in the effort," Mike Anderson said. "One thing I can say about our team is that no one has really out-efforted us and I thought tonight Illinois did."

The Illini out-everythinged Missouri. From the opening tip, Illinois took its ninth straight edition of the Braggin' Rights over just about as completely as it is possible to do. A minute and 19 seconds in, DeMarre Carroll stuck back an offensive rebound to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead. It would be their last.

Demetri McCamey led the charge, scoring 13 of Illinois' first 20 points on a barrage of jumpers. Perhaps the one that should have shown the Tigers what was to come came less than six minutes into the game. After 34 seconds of suffocating defense, Missouri watched as McCamey heaved an off-balance prayer from 24 feet. It went in, not even touching the rim, as the shot clock expired.

After McCamey's outburst, the Tigers cut the lead briefly to seven. But Missouri would not be closer than 15 for the game's final 23 minutes.

"They made some shots early and I thought our guys got a little tentative on defense," Anderson said. "They attacked us and made us pay for it. We were just a full step off. We weren't covering guys."

While Illinois burned the nets at a 57% clip, the Tigers made only 23 of 62 on the night (37.1%). From three-point range, it was even worse. Missouri missed its first 13 and ended up 2-18 on the night.

Missouri's first-year players, outside of Zaire Taylor's 11 points despite foul trouble, combined to score 11 points in 60 minutes on 5-of-24 shooting from the floor. But this was hardly a loss to pin on any one segment of the team. Mizzou was beaten every way it could have been beaten in this one.

"We're going to see a lot of teams that are as good or better than Illinois," Anderson said. "We have a lot of basketball to come. I think it's one game and one game doesn't make a season. Sometimes people get a little excited, and I know our fans are disappointed, and our team is disappointed and I'm disappointed, but we've got a lot of basketball left. It was just one of those nights and we weren't as sharp as we've been."

"We have a lot of confidence on this team, the players and the coaching staff," Carroll said. "This isn't the same team as last year. I think we're going to regroup from this. We have to keep winning."

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