The Siberian Tiger can thrive in snowy conditions, but an alligator most certainly cannot. And while mascot matchups don’t always play out how the game does, tonight it did. Missouri completely took over the game, smothering Florida and winning 91-75.
Snowed in, the Gators will have to wait the night out in Columbia. Maybe it will give them some time to think about tonight’s game. Missouri fans, at least, will be thinking about tonight’s performance and the new life it just brought to the season.
When Xavier Pinson caught the high point of a tipped ball and took off on a fast break, he was closely trailed by Omar Payne, the Florida forward that towers eight inches over him. It looked like Pinson had limited options and would have to slow things down, but he did just the opposite. Barreling towards the basket, Pinson made Payne look small, evading his seven-foot wingspan and slamming it down.
“I was just doing my job, pushing the ball, and I seen the opportunity to go get it. There was a defender right there, I don’t really know how to explain it. It just happened to be honest,” Pinson said about the dunk. He then gave credit to teammate Javon Pickett for spacing the floor and giving him someone to fake the ball to.
It was the exclamation mark on Tigers’ highest scoring first half of the year, putting up 51 points.
The half was back and forth, never with a long run made by either team. Dru Smith commanded the floor, leading the Tigers with 14 points followed closely by Mark Smith with 11 and Pinson with 8. The Tigers shot an astounding 8-11 from the three and 60% from the field. Missouri’s defense looked elite, holding the Gators to just 30% from the field.
The energy stayed in the arena and with the Tigers for the second half. On the very first possession, Mitchell Smith drained a three. Missouri was still putting up points but their fouls continued to get tacked on. And while Pinson, who brought the first half electricity, had to exit because of foul trouble, the Tigers didn’t seem to have trouble replacing the energy his dunk brought. Halfway through the second, Javon Pickett and Torrence Watson knocked down threes on back to back possessions. In the paint and outside the arc, the Tigers were relentless. Even in the absence of Jeremiah Tilmon, Missouri shot 60.6% from the field and held Florida to 34.5%.
It wasn’t Pinson’s best game of the season, but he played an important role nonetheless. There are intangibles that the Chicago product brings to this team that are hard to quantify. You can see it in his eyes. And so could Omar Payne after Xavier Pinson posterized and stared him down on television.