What a difference a few days can make.

After scoring 91 points against Florida on Saturday, Missouri didn’t even reach half that total in a 72-45 road loss to Mississippi State on Tuesday night.

The Tigers reached 45 points against the Gators with 3:25 left in the first half, but any momentum MU gained from that victory appears to be lost in one gut-punch.

Missouri is 9-7 overall and 1-3 in the Southeastern Conference, with a road test against Alabama coming up Saturday afternoon.

Here are five takeaways from the blowout loss to the Bulldogs:

1. Mississippi State was an unfavorable matchup for Missouri without Jeremiah Tilmon.

The Bulldogs have the second-tallest team in Division I, and Missouri’s starting frontcourt duo of Mitchell Smith and Reed Nikko were outclassed by the likes of Reggie Perry and Abdul Ado. The absence of Tilmon, sidelined with a stress fracture in his left foot, has never been felt more than in the early stages of Tuesday’s game, when a comeback still appeared within reach. While the foul-trouble stigma will follow him until he proves otherwise, his presence alone would’ve made the Bulldogs more tentative to drive to the hoop and would’ve put less wear and tear on the Tigers’ other low-post players. MU didn’t have the vertical firepower to adequately retaliate. Missouri also didn’t do enough to counter its disadvantage around the rim with its guards, allowing Nick Weatherspoon to comfortably hit a few 3-pointers before halftime to effectively stretch the lead to the point of no return. Mississippi State considered the game against the Tigers a must-win after starting SEC play 0-3. It appeared the Bulldogs wanted the win more.

2. A return to reality was going to happen eventually, but it hit hard.

Shooting over 60% from the field and from beyond the arc in each game was never going to happen. After Saturday’s offensive breakthrough, some sort of decline was bound to happen. The 40-minute freefall in Starkville was the worst-case scenario. Against the Bulldogs, MU shot 35% from the field and 20% (5-for-25) from 3-point range. MU scored 51 points in the first half against Florida but only 20 before halftime against Mississippi State. The dream statistics only had to wait three days to turn into a nightmare. The Tigers plummeted from 52nd on KenPom to 68th with the loss.

3. A deviation to the plan isn’t coming for the Tigers.

Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin isn’t going to deviate from his vision for the program because of one win or loss. An SEC road loss isn’t as bad as falling to Charleston Southern at home nor some of the showings from the Kim Anderson years. The defense-first focus will continue no matter the offensive improvements that need to be made. The loss to Mississippi State was frustrating and can’t be overlooked. But it shouldn’t hold disproportionate weight. Winning would cure everything, and Martin’s focus moves to Saturday against the Crimson Tide.

4. Dru Smith’s importance can’t be understated.

Smith’s performances over the past week have defined how the Tigers as a whole have performed. One of his worst performances of the season gave way to a defeat to Tennessee. His signature outing of the season led to a blowout of Florida. Then Smith had a minus-32 differential against the Bulldogs and it led to a deflating loss. He’s the engine of the Missouri offense and has a better understanding of the pulse of the game than most point guards in the SEC. Florida head coach Mike White couldn’t stop raving about Smith, but the rest of the conference could be wising up to his potential.

5. Martin isn't on the hot seat, but losses like this don't help.

Martin took over for Anderson, who nearly turned Missouri into Rutgers football, a high-level conference team that consistently can’t compete with its regularly scheduled foes. In his first season in charge, and with prized recruit Michael Porter Jr. playing only three games, Martin took the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament. That postseason berth triggered a clause in his contract that ensures he cannot be fired without cause through the end of next season. Probably best for Martin not to check his Twitter mentions right now, but nights like Tuesday — especially three days after a big win — show the extremes of coaching at this level.

eblum@columbiatribune.com