MU falls to Cal in men's hoops

BERKELEY, Calif. | For sad Missouri fans the news from the West Coast wasn’t any better than it was from San Antonio.

The basketball Tigers started their game against Cal very well Saturday night. Finishing it was another story. MU fell 86-72, the Tigers’ second loss in a row. MU led by as much as 13 early in the second half, but went cold on offense and watched as the Bears warmed up.

“It was a tale of two halves,” MU coach Mike Anderson said. “I don’t know if it was because of how the game was being called, but it’s amazing. We didn’t get a chance to get to the free-throw line, and it kept our guys off-kilter.

“But we also didn’t make plays. We had the opportunity to increase the lead in the second half and couldn’t maintain it. And their bigs really started to step up to the plate and make plays for them.”

Unlike in the 94-91 defeat at Arkansas on Wednesday, the Tigers didn’t have much gas in the tank by game’s end Saturday. They were outrebounded 41-20 and fell to 5-3 on the season.

“That’s the disappointing thing,” Anderson said of the imbalance on the boards. “I think we’re a better basketball team (than that).”

At a far-from-full Haas Pavilion _ many Cal fans were down the road at Stanford for their annual football rivalry and just 7,115 were at the hoops game _ MU took a 45-37 halftime lead. That was on the strength of its 17 of 26 (65.4 percent) shooting from the field in the first half. Three-point specialist Matt Lawrence did his thing, hitting five of eight from behind the arc. His 15 points at the break led the Tigers.

MU also started the second half very strongly, getting out to a 13-point lead on Stefhon Hannah’s three-pointer at the 18:57 mark. But then the MU offense got a little sloppy, and Cal took advantage. The Bears went on a 15-4 run that left the Tigers clinging to a 56-54 lead.

Darryl Butterfield’s driving basket ended an offensive slump for the Tigers, and Hannah hit a much-need three-pointer on their next possession. Keon Lawrence followed a Hannah miss with a put-back, and it appeared the Tigers were taking control again.

However, it wasn’t the case. Butterfield was fouled on a three-point attempt, but missed all three free throws. That ended up being a critical turning point for the Tigers, really hurting them from a momentum standpoint. Hannah was called for a questionable charge the next trip down on offense, which was his fourth foul.

Nikola Knezevic’s driving basket at 9:03 gave the Bears their first lead, 64-63, since the start of the game. Meanwhile, Knezevic was also playing stuck-like-glue defense on Matt Lawrence in the second half.

“He did a really good job; he came off screens and chased me really well,” said Lawrence, who was limited to two points in the second half, both on free throws. “He frustrated me out there.”

But Anderson thought that other Tigers had openings since Lawrence was shut down. And they weren’t able to take advantage of them.

Leo Lyons’ foul shot with 8:26 left tied the game at 64-64. But Jerome Randle’s three-pointer 20 seconds later put Cal up for good. MU looked disjointed and rushed on offense the rest of the way.

Some Cal fans taunted the Tigers with jeers of “Oklahoma! Oklahoma!” when they went to the foul line in the second half. But the Tigers, of course, didn’t know about the Big 12 football championship result until after they’d finished their game.

Matt Lawrence led the Tigers with 17 points. Hannah and DeMarre Carroll had 14 points each for MU, which finished the game shooting 48.2 percent (27 of 56). The Tigers were nine of 17 from the foul line, compared to Cal’s 26 of 29.

Patrick Christopher led the 5-0 Bears with 18 points, and Randle and DeVon Hardin had 16 each. Hardin led the way on the boards with 12, while Carroll was the top Tiger rebounder with a mere five.

MU has some time to work on flaws that these last two games, in particular, have pointed out. The Tigers’ next game is Dec. 8 at home against Purdue.

“It gives us a chance to get back and get to practice,” Anderson said, “and correct some of those things that we’ve been talking about.”