Today marked the sixth annual Rally For Rhyan fundraiser event for the Missouri Tigers basketball program, a day in which over $65,000 was raised at the game to help combat pediatric cancer. The fundraiser was certainly a bright spot in today’s overtime defeat to the rival Razorbacks.
The unranked Arkansas Razorbacks have been quietly treading water in the SEC the past few weeks— sitting at third place in the conference standings (7-4) — and they came into today’s competition looking for a statement win against a short-handed Tiger team.
Mitchell Smith started in place of Jeremiah Tilmon this afternoon, who was absent due to a death in the family, and quickly found ways to get settled in, nailing two three pointers before the first media timeout. “We always want Tilly out there, but we also have the next man up mentality,” Parker Braun said in the Tigers’ post-game.
The Tigers looked far more disciplined on defense today than against the Ole Miss, forcing the Razorbacks to settle for highly-contested shots in the first half. Missouri capitalized on these defensive stops by drilling a series of threes in the first half. Torrence Watson, not usually a big part of Missouri’s rotation, did a great job off the bench, hitting a pair of threes halfway through the first to keep Missouri out in front. The Tigers continued their recent trend of hot-flash three point shooting, scoring 18 of their first 26 from outside the arc, and were an impressive 6-14 through the first twenty minutes. “I just tried to carry my load… you never know when your time is gonna come,” Watson said in the post-game.
Arkansas hung around, however, and they cut Missouri’s lead down to four before heading into the break. The Razorbacks weren’t particularly exceptional from the field at the halfway mark, but they forced 11 Missouri turnovers to keep things in contention.
Missouri headed to the locker room leading 35-31, but their second half didn’t get off to an ideal start. Another Missouri turnover allowed Arkansas to retake the lead. Missouri kept things close, though, as the Tigers and Razorbacks traded three pointers back and forth. Missouri’s offense seemed to be fueled by its three pointers, though Mark Smith continued to struggle offensively— he made no shots beyond the arc.
Arkansas and Missouri were deadlocked at 60 heading into the third media timeout of the second half, and Dru Smith and Xavier Pinson were left no choice but to take over for the Tigers offensively. In a game where Missouri needed to shoot the three ball well, they certainly did. Both Dru and X had multiple crucial threes to keep the Hogs from blowing things out the water. The Tigers ended the night an impressive 13-32 from deep.
The score continued to stay tight as the game entered the closing minutes. Xavier Pinson checked back in with four fouls and hit another crunch-time three pointer for Missouri, but the Tigers still trailed and Cuonzo Martin elected to burn a timeout down 73-69 with 1:10 remaining on the clock.
Out of the timeout, Martin drew a play for Mark Smith to get an open look in the corner, but Smith’s shot hit nothing but air. Mitchell Smith, who has come up with some extremely clutch plays the last two weeks, got the offensive board and put it in, cutting the Hogs’ lead to two. Down on the other end, Missouri forced a stop and quickly flew down court with time running out. Dru Smith made a nice drive to the paint and laid it off to Parker Braun, who tied things at 73. Arkansas had just barely enough time for a game winning shot but came up short, so the game went to overtime.
In overtime, Missouri were forced to play through the tough loss ofMitchell Smith, who fouled out before extra play began. Missouri played on, however, and Pinson continued to energize the Tigers’ offense. X completed an old-school three point play to give Missouri their first lead since the midway point of the second half. Overtime had a similar feel to the final minutes of regulation, as both teams looked like they had the ability to go on and win.
With under a minute to play, with Missouri up one, Dovonte Davis converted a go-ahead bucket for Arkansas, and Coach Martin called another timeout talk things over. “They got a back door play,” Martin explained in the post-game. “That hurt.”
Missouri trailed 81-82 with 33.8 left to play coming out of the time out, and a quick goaltending call against the Hogs put the Tigers right back in front 12 seconds later. After an extensive review, though, it was determined to be a clean block, and Missouri got the ball back, and receive the play under the hoop with 20 seconds remaining. Unfortunately, a miscue occurred for the Tigers offensively, as the Hogs forced a turnover off an arrant Dru Smith pass. Moody was immediately sent to the line for Arkansas to shoot two, and Arkansas suddenly put the game out of reach. A missed Pinson three on the other end all but put the nail in the coffin for this one, as Arkansas would hang on to win 86-81.
Following the game, coach Martin addressed his thoughts about the goaltending reversal. “I thought it was in,” Martin explained. “I thought it was a goaltend.” Parker Braun added a similar message regarding the call. “I was surprised for sure, but you gotta always be ready and move on to the next play,” Braun said.
For Missouri, a surplus of players contributed points, most notably Drew Buggs and Torrence Watson, who came off the bench. The two combined for 17 points. “I’m happy to get out there and help the team,” Watson noted in the post-game. “It felt good, but at the end of the day we didn’t get the win, so I’m not happy.”
Today’s game marks the first time all year that the Tigers have dropped consecutive matchups, which means Missouri’s chances at an SEC title are now all but a pipe dream of the past. The Tigers will prepare to take on the Georgia Bulldogs next week. Cuonzo Martin was asked about the status of big man, Jeremiah Tilmon, and whether or not he’d be back in the lineup Tuesday, to which Coach responded, “I don’t know.”