Very few analysts thought TCU would put up a fight against the 12th ranked Missouri Tigers for today’s Big12-SEC matchup, but the Horned Frogs, who’ve been blown out in their last three games, came into Mizzou Arena with a chip on their shoulders.
Missouri tipped off against TCU with a slightly different look this afternoon — Javon Pickett replaced Mark Smith, who has struggled shooting the basketball of late. Thankfully, the change didn’t have too much of an effect on Missouri, who jumped out to an initial lead. Jeremiah Tilmon had very few problems getting on the scoresheet early, contributing 9 of the Tigers’ first 11 points. Missouri’s offense lived and breathed through Tilmon all day. As for the rest of the Tigers’ lineup, the bench stayed relatively quiet in the first half, but it didn’t matter as Missouri clung onto a 15-14 lead heading into the second media timeout of the first half.
Missouri looked noticeably different with Tilmon on the bench, who scored at will during the first half. Xavier Pinson did his best impression of himself on the road at Tennessee from a week ago, scoring 10 points on 4-8 shooting, but TCU managed to hang around for the majority of the half. Mike Miles led the way for the Horned Frogs with 10 first half points.
Defensively, the Tigers looked mediocre. “I don’t think we did a great job defending,” Coach Martin said in the post-game. Missouri didn’t have any blatant errors through the first twenty minutes, and never really struggled with foul trouble, but weren’t able to force many turnovers. TCU was able to get a handful of baskets off hard drives into the paint, and they shot a proficient 59.4% from the field through one half.
Missouri and TCU entered a rapid-fire shoot-out down the stretch of the first half, as both teams would take turns holding the lead. “The game was sloppy as far as trading baskets goes,” Pinson said in the post-game. Both teams were nearly identical statistically through twenty, each shooting better than 55% from the field. Ultimately, TCU proved to hold the slight edge on offense, as they went into the half with a small 43-38 lead. Missouri’s defense lacked in the first, but their offensive performance is what kept things close.
Not too much changed as the second half got underway. Missouri opened the scoring with a Kobe Brown three-pointer on their first possession, and Jeremiah Tilmon continued to dominate anything that moved and breathed oxygen below the basket. Missouri was quickly able to tie things up at 45, despite some so-so free throw shooting.
Xavier Pinson was the difference maker for Missouri with a quick seven points through the first five minutes to help the Tigers keep things close. For TCU, it was a collective effort as they continued to shoot the lights out and had doubled the amount of offensive rebounds than the Tigers by the second media timeout, where they led 61-57.
Missouri had numerous chances cut into TCU’s single-digit lead for the majority of the second half, but the Horned Frogs had Mike Miles, who finished with 28 points and made several big shots in the second half. TCU opened up their largest lead at 82-70 with four and half minutes left to play.
With time dwindling, Missouri looked to close the gap as quickly as they could. Xavier Pinson completed a four-point play to cut TCU’s lead to just four, and a crucial Mark Smith three the ensuing possession helped the Tigers cut the lead back to three. “We want him [Mark] to shoot,” Coach Martin said after the game. “He stepped up and knocked it down.” Mike Miles, however refused to let TCU lose this game in regulation, as he answered with a three of his own.
Following a missed shot on TCU’s end, Missouri drove down the floor, where Pinson hit yet another three to cut the lead to just one. Dru Smith fouled TCU’s Miles with 23.8 seconds to go. Miles sank both of his 1-and-1 free throws to push the Horned Frog lead back to three.
On Missouri’s final possession of regulation, Dru Smith missed a game-tying three only to have Kobe Brown come up with the biggest offensive rebound of the game. He kicked out to an open Pinson, who nailed a three with 3.9 seconds to go. “My MVP was Kobe Brown,” Coach Martin explained in the post-game. “He was relentless.” Brown finished the day with 13 boards, 5 of which were on the offensive end. “I knew we needed a three,” Kobe Brown said. “I heard X calling my name...X is always in the gym so I expect nothing less from him.” Despite TCU’s late double-digit lead, this game was dramatically sent to overtime, tied at 89.
Heading into overtime, Missouri had all the momentum and looked down low for Tilmon to go to work. He converted to give Missouri their first lead since the first half. “Coach always emphasized taking advantage of mismatches,” Tilmon explained in the post-game. “They didn’t double, so we just kept doing what we were doing.” Tilmon finished with 33 points on 13-16 shooting. His struggles from the free throw line continued though, where he was a mere 7-14. Fortunately, players like Pinson were able to hit all their free throws during OT to keep the Tigers out in front. Pinson also finished with stellar performance. X had 36 total points and made 8 threes— a career high.
Pinson was asked post-game about hitting a game-tying three with less then 5 seconds to go. “If I get a shot, I gotta make it,” he explained. “The shot’s going up if I’m open.”
The rollercoaster game continued with both teams exchanging leads. Pinson had the answer from deep putting the Tigers up 97-95 with 1:05 left, but a bang bang play for TCU put them at the line, where they would take the lead on an old-fashioned three point play. That would ultimately be the last points of the night for TCU, as Dru Smith responded right back, finishing a difficult high-arching layup to put the Tigers back up one. A stop and a board later and Missouri was sent to the line, where Pinson calmly hit two free throws, putting the Tigers up three with 28.3 to go in OT.
TCU had the chance to tie things up during the most crucial play of the game, but a fatal turnover, a steal by Kobe Brown, put the Tigers back at the line. Though Missouri wasn’t their best at the charity stripe tonight (21-35), it was enough to get them the victory. 102-98 was the final from Mizzou Arena, as Missouri successfully completed their double-digit second half comeback. “One would consider that an exciting game,” Coach Martin said in the post-game with a smile.