Missouri junior forward Mitchell Smith didn’t like what transpired Tuesday night. Then again, neither did any Tiger.
Charleston Southern celebrated on the Mizzou Arena floor as the final horn sounded in the Buccaneers' 68-60 upset victory over the Tigers.
The visitors from the Big South Conference screamed in joy and took their party to the locker room with a “water fight” that drenched head coach Barclay Radebaugh like he walked out of his house in a thunderstorm without an umbrella.
“You never want to see that. … I don't ever want to see a team celebrating on our floor,” Smith said of Charleston Southern's celebration. “So that's why when I come out, I'm trying to play hard. I know my team is trying to play hard to never see it again.”
Missouri was damaged by a dismal start for the third contest in a row, falling behind 12-3 and scoring only 14 points in the opening 15 minutes.
The Tigers (4-4) sparked at times, but nowhere near as much as would be expected against the No. 313-ranked team in Division I on KenPom.com entering the game. The Buccaneers vaulted to 287th with the win, while Missouri fell 19 spots with the setback.
Missouri’s 3-point shooting again was a problem, making 4 of 26, just more than 15%. Smith went 2-for-2 from beyond the arc. The rest of MU was 2 of 24.
The slow start wasn’t the dagger in Missouri’s chances of keeping a clean record at home, however.
The Tigers led 28-23 at halftime but were outscored by 13 in the second half.
“I've been doing this a long time, it’s probably one of the toughest ones,” Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin said of the defeat. “It's like I felt it 10 minutes left to go in the second half. It just didn't feel right. We just didn't have the right flow, the right momentum. It was like we were just chugging along.”
The Buccaneers sprinted on a 14-5 run midway through the second half to even the score after Missouri led by as many as nine points early after halftime.
The Tigers' last lead evaporated with more than three minutes remaining and they never recovered.
Two clutch 3-pointers in the final stretch by Charleston Southern’s Duncan LeXander, the game’s leading scorer with 17 points, sealed Missouri’s fate.
LeXander’s hot hand was a trend throughout the final 20 minutes, as Charleston Southern bucked its trend of the second-lowest 3-point percentage in Division I entering Tuesday by shooting 72.7% from beyond the arc in the second half.
“Being a low-Division I is often very difficult, because you have to go out and play these guaranteed games,” Radebaugh said. “And to get one just pumps life into our program. It pumps life into our players and our fans and our school.”
The Buccaneers had a turbulent travel schedule just to get to Columbia. After flying to Nashville, they had a two-hour delay to get to St. Louis, then made a bus trip to Boone County from Lambert International Airport.
Those delays caused Charleston Southern to not practice Monday, theoretically keeping the team fresh for its matchup with the Tigers.
“We play a lot of Power Five opponents and I don't even want to know my record against Power Fives,” Radebaugh said. “It’s our third guaranteed game that we’ve won in 15 years.”
The 3-5 Buccaneers have lost this season to Michigan State by 48, Furman by 44 and Southern Utah by 35. This was only their second win over a Division I team this year.
“With the schedule being so tough, we had lost some of the joy that we had been playing with all year,” Radebaugh said. “And we just wanted to rekindle that and play and let the results just happen.”
Charleston Southern did at the Tigers' expense for its first Power Five victory in over five years.
Radebaugh said his team would leave the arena and go get milkshakes, per a Buccaneer tradition.
“It's been a long time since we got a milkshake against a Power Five team,” Radebaugh said, “so that's going to taste really good.”
Martin and Smith said Missouri didn’t overlook the Buccaneers, even with a stiff test against Temple coming Saturday in Philadelphia.
Yet Martin said he doesn’t know if he will ever forget Tuesday’s loss.
It continued a tumultuous eight-day stretch for Missouri athletics that has included three men’s basketball losses, the NCAA upholding all previously announced sanctions against three Tiger athletic programs and the firing of head football coach Barry Odom.
Radebaugh, however, beaming at every moment of his postgame news conference, offered a positive outlook for Missouri.
“They're a big, strong team. … (Martin) will figure it out,” Radebaugh said. “He's a class act.”