COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Missouri hadn’t yet hit the panic button in Southeastern Conference play, but the Tigers’ fingers were getting awfully itchy.
“We needed this one bad,” Missouri forward Jeremiah Tilmon said following the Tigers’ 66-43 thumping of Texas A&M on Saturday. “We started off in the SEC real slow so this was a big confidence builder.”
Jordan Geist scored 17 points and Tilmon added 14 as Missouri dominated A&M over the game, quieting an already subdued crowd in a half-full arena. Missouri (10-6, 1-4) won its first league game while A&M (7-9, 1-4) lost its fourth consecutive home game.
“Our guys did a great job from start to finish of being locked in,” Tigers coach Cuonzo Martin said. “We just had to muster up the energy to get back to the basics, and here we are.”
Geist made 6 of 7 shots from the field, including 4-of-5 3-pointers, in the Tigers’ largest margin of victory on the road in SEC play since 2013. Nearly halfway through the second half, the Aggies had made only six field goals, as the Tigers poured it on with the outcome no longer in doubt.
“I want to apologize to our fans and the 12th Man for our effort,” said coach Billy Kennedy, who’s in his eighth season at A&M. “It was obviously poor. And obviously I’ve done a poor job getting our guys to play at the level I think we’re capable of playing.”
Josh Nebo led A&M with 12 points and Jay Jay Chandler added 11. Kevin Puryear had 10 rebounds to help Missouri earn a 39-33 advantage.
“My mission today was just to give this team a spark,” Puryear said. “And we’re a lot better at the posts than a lot of people give us credit for.”
The Tigers overwhelmed the Aggies in points in the paint (28-10), and Missouri shot 48 percent from the field (25 of 52) while the Aggies shot a season-low 26 percent (13 of 50).
“You can’t sit here and dwell on this, you just keep moving forward and figure it out,” Nebo said.
Missouri: The Tigers needed this one in the worst way, following three consecutive losses to start SEC play (that followed six straight wins entering conference action). The Tigers also avoided losing four straight games for the first time under Martin, who’s in his second season.
A&M: The Aggies have largely been mediocre to middling in Kennedy’s eight seasons, but their two NCAA Tournament appearances in two of the last three seasons have been successes with Sweet 16 appearances.
Saturday might be rock bottom for the Aggies under Kennedy – at least they’re hoping so – considering he’s this deep into his A&M tenure.
The Missouri players were the only ones in the arena who jumped out of their seats in excitement, especially when Reed Nikko skied over Aggie rebounders for a follow-up dunk to lift the Tigers to a 21-14 lead with 7:46 remaining in the first half.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
The Aggies’ 43 points were their lowest this season by 21 points, and their lowest total since losing 66-41 to Vanderbilt in the opening round of the 2017 SEC Tournament.
HE SAID IT
“I’m not doing a good enough job of getting them ready, and secondly, you have to have guys who want to be coached, and that starts in practice,” Kennedy said.
Missouri: The Tigers are at Arkansas on Wednesday.
Texas A&M: The Aggies are at Florida on Tuesday.
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