Columbia. Mo. Two games ago, Missouri looked like the surprise success story of the Big 12 Conference. Now, again, the Tigers are reeling.
Coach Quin Snyder's unpredictable team may have hit rock bottom in a 24-point loss to Iowa State on Wednesday night at home. The 82-58 whipping was the school's most lopsided setback at home since a 99-70 loss to Kansas State in 1960-61 - six years before Norm Stewart began his legendary 32-year run.
There have been other embarrassments to be sure. Missouri lost its season opener at home to lightly regarded Sam Houston State and got drilled by 33 points by Illinois in St. Louis in mid-December.
But the Tigers' latest woes, also including a 15-point never-in-the-game loss Saturday at Kansas State, came on the heels of their most inspired stretch of the season. They won at Oklahoma, somehow overcame Kansas University in overtime and were one last-second basket - by Colorado - away from a 4-0 league start.
"We've been playing pretty well and we had a lot of confidence," guard Thomas Gardner said. "Some things got exploited. We didn't rebound, we didn't take care of the ball, we got knocked back."
The Iowa State loss was so frustrating for Snyder that he seemed to welcome a second technical foul and the ejection that came with it with 1:16 to go. Missouri (10-7, 3-3 Big 12) shot 38 percent, committed 19 turnovers against the Cyclones' zone press and missed 18 of 32 free-throw attempts.
Now he's got to help the players get past this and get ready to play Saturday at Nebraska.
"I told our team, as much as we can take from this and understand why we didn't do well and learn from it, that's got to be where it goes," Snyder said. "Any time you get beat like this it's like a big win: You can't let it create a fog because you play again Saturday."
Point guard Jason Horton noted that players didn't allow the Illinois debacle to linger. He hopes to do the same with Iowa State.
"Illinois is way behind us," Horton said. "This game will be behind us. We lost by 20 and we can go win by 20."
The second half was so such a jarring mismatch, though, that Snyder was asked whether his team gave up. Missouri had cut the deficit from 19 points to 11 on a three-pointer by Gardner with 11:36 to go before Iowa State scored eight straight points in a 58-second span to launch an 18-3 run that put the game away.
"I don't think this was about us quitting," Snyder said. "I think we have to play harder, but I don't think we showed a lack of character."
Iowa State certainly took the crowd out of it. Fans left in droves during and after the crucial sequence even though about eight minutes remained.
"At one point in time they got on a run and then we went on something like a 10-point run and you could kind of hear the whole stadium get real quiet," reserve Jessan Gray said. "It got so quiet. The gym got really empty."
It got so discouraging for Snyder that he took out Gardner, the conference's leading scorer with a 21-point average, for the last 6:50.
"At that point I don't think there was anything anybody was doing real well," Snyder said. "Sometimes it's important to let your leaders see what's going on on the floor to internalize a loss like that, to feel it."
He wants them to remember the feeling for the rematch Feb. 28 in Ames, Iowa.
"You don't want to wipe this one out, you keep this one in the back of your head," center Kevin Young said. "Ain't nobody want to lose like this."