The Missouri Tigers welcomed the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles to Mizzou Arena Wednesday night and took care of the mid-major squad with ease.
Mizzou got off to a good start when Jeremiah Tilmon secured the first points of the season with a monster dunk, and that served as an omen for the remainder of the game.
The Tigers handled this game well, putting distance between themselves and Oral Roberts early in the first half. Oral Roberts kept it close at the opening when Max Abmas hit a couple deep threes, but when the Golden Eagles weren’t able to hit from deep, the Tigers were able to begin pulling away. They did it by dominating on the inside.
The Tigers pounded it down low. Jeremiah Tilmon owned the paint without getting in foul trouble, and pulled down rebound after rebound. Xavier Pinson and Dru Smith got to the rim with ease. It was exactly what Tigers fans wanted to see to open up the first game of the season.
At the half, the Tigers would go into the locker room up 42-32. Besides asserting themselves down low, the Tigers also played swarming defense. They had 6 steals by halftime, held ORU under 30% from 3, and stayed out of foul trouble. It seemed as if the Golden Eagles were lucky to be down only 10 at intermission.
To open up the second half, it was the Mark Smith show. The senior put on a shooting display draining three 3s in the first 4 minutes of the half. Continued strong defense and Mark Smith catching fire had the Tigers up 18 at the first TV timeout of the second half with a chance to step on the Golden Eagles’ throats and firmly put the game away.
The Tigers would do just that. Led by an extremely efficient offensive attack from deep and down low, the Tigers would leave nothing to doubt. Three more 3s from Pinson, Mitchell Smith, and Torrence Watson paired with non stop driving and cutting to the basket left ORU defenders helpless.
When it was all said and done, four Tiger players finished in double figures and three finished with more than 15. Dru Smith, Xavier Pinson, and Mark Smith finished with 16, 17, and 18, respectively. Jeremiah Tilmon didn’t get a double-double, but he did add 8 points and grab 12 rebounds while staying out of foul trouble. A confident Tilmon said, “That’s what they should expect from me every night,” following his strong performance.
The efficient clip at which the Tigers scored stood out in particular. This team is made up of largely the same core of a team that struggled shooting last year, but tonight was different. As a team, they shot 53% from the field and 40% from 3. In his press conference this week, Cuonzo Martin was asked if he there were any offensive adjustments he hoped to see this year, and he replied, “Hopefully balls going in the basket.” Tonight, they most certainly did.
After the game, Cuonzo credited the offensive explosion to the players’ relief to finally be on the court. “We were ready to play a game… it’s not as easy in practice… in practice everyone knows what you’re doing.”
Despite the strong all-around performance, Xavier Pinson still thinks the Tigers have more in the tank. “We didn’t play up to our expectations, honestly,” he said. If that’s the case, fans should be ecstatic to see what this team is like when they do play up to their own expectations.
In the end, the Tigers were able to secure a 91-64 victory that showed great promise for the remainder of the season. They scored and played defense at all 5 positions and the bench proved to have ample depth. Tiger fans will surely be excited about the potential of this team after such a strong showing, even if it was against a Summit League mid-major.