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Missouri shuts down North Florida in 85-51 win

The Tigers held the Ospreys to 31 percent shooting from the field with a smothering defensive effort.

NCAA Basketball: Wagner at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

North Florida likes to shoot. A lot. Going into Saturday night against Missouri, the Ospreys (5-8) were making nearly 12 3-pointers per game at a 40-percent shooting clip.

The Tigers simply weren’t going to let that happen. Missouri (9-2) defeated North Florida 85-51 and held them to just 18 percent shooting from long range.

Mizzou completely sold out on defending the 3-point line, staying active and switching on almost every screen. A bi-product of that strategy was mismatches and easy looks at the rim, but North Florida proved unable to take advantage.

“We were forcing them to take tough shots from three,” Kassius Robertson said. “They were trying to force it inside and our bigs were doing a great job of keeping their hands up. They were trying to shoot layups over 6’10” guys, so that wasn’t working for them.”

The Ospreys couldn’t match the Tigers’ length, size or athleticism. North Florida was unable to create space on the perimeter or finish inside, so it essentially couldn’t score.

“I think this is definitely what we want,” Jordan Barnett said. “We were almost suffocating at times. They couldn’t really get much off, they couldn’t really hit any shots. I think that’s just us playing extremely good defense. We definitely need that to continue because we’re getting closer to conference play.”

Missouri also won the rebounding battle, 52-31, which is the 10th time it’s done so this season.

For the second straight game, it was a reserve that gave a crucial spark.

Jordan Geist entered the game early in the first half after Blake Harris picked up a quick foul, and he immediately got to being the pest that he is. He forced three turnovers in only four minutes of play.

“I expect that from him,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said. “Whether he’s getting steals or not, I expect the energy that he brings to the table on both sides of the ball.”

Geist’s efforts keyed a 20-0 run in which Missouri’s defense hit its peak. The Ospreys missed 12 consecutive field goals and committed five turnovers. Meanwhile, the Tigers were filling it up.

Robertson scored eight points during that stretch, hitting two threes and getting fouled on another. Barnett followed close behind with six points, finishing two layups and knocking down a jumper.

Just like that, a 6-5 Tigers deficit turned into an absolute blowout of North Florida. The game was already over at halftime as Mizzou lead by 27 points.

Barnett led all scorers with 18 points and added 11 rebounds. Barnett has scored 109 points while making 38 of 72 shots in the last six games.

“Sometimes when my three is falling I may at times settle,” Barnett said. “I think tonight was a good example of me just scoring every possible way I could. Attacking on the offensive glass and just being aggressive.”

Jeremiah Tilmon posted a line of 10 points, five rebounds and two blocks while Geist finished with 11 points and three steals.

Jontay Porter grabbed 10 rebounds, dished out five assists and swatted two shots. With 25 blocks on the year, Porter already has the fourth-most blocks for a freshman in Mizzou history. It’s been 11 games.

Missouri will cap off its four-game home stand against Stephen F. Austin (10-1) on Tuesday. The Lumberjacks are coming off of a huge 83-82 victory over LSU tonight.

“I saw most of the game against LSU,” Martin said when asked about Stephen F. Austin. “They’ve been a talented program, probably for the last 10 years. We know it’ll be a fight. It won’t be a cakewalk, not at all.”