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Tilmon, Smith Power Mizzou to a Victory over South Carolina

Jeremiah Tilmon and Mark Smith led the way for Tigers to secure an 81-70 victory over the Gamecocks for their first home SEC win

Twitter: @MizzouHoops

With a minute to play on Tuesday night against South Carolina, Cuonzo Martin removed Jeremiah Tilmon from the floor, and he was greeted with a standing ovation from the socially distanced crowd at Mizzou Arena.

Tilmon, who leads the conference in FG%, turned in a stellar double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds and led the way for a dominant 81-70 Tigers win over the Gamecocks, however he wasn’t the only Tiger that put together a stellar performance.

Mark Smith, who has been awfully quiet after winning back-to-back SEC Player of the Week awards to open the season, returned to form with a huge shooting night. Smith added 18 points on top of Tilmon’s 19, including 3 threes for his largest output of the season since the Liberty game.

The Tigers dominated this game from the first whistle when they jumped out to an early 10-0 run, and South Carolina was never able to fully recover despite hanging around 10 points back for most of the game thanks to some stellar offensive rebounding.

The Gamecocks, one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country, grabbed 20 offensive boards that led to 16 second-chance points, which prevented the Tigers from ever putting the game too far out of reach. After the game, Cuonzo Martin simply said, “We have to be better,” about their rebounding performance.

Both Tilmon and Smith deflected the attention onto one another following their standout performances. “You can’t leave Mark open… if he’s already hot, it’s lights out,” said Tilmon, and “It’s a lot of fun playing with him right now,” added Smith.

Perhaps the only scary moment of the game for the Tigers came with 2:42 to play in the first half when Xavier Pinson hit the floor of Norm Stewart Court hard and had to exit the game after being accidentally kneed by teammate Javon Pickett.

Luckily for Cuonzo Martin’s men, Pinson was able to return to the court after the intermission and avoid major injury. Despite a clearly not 100% Pinson, the rest of the team picked up the slack, and never let the Gamecocks get close enough and put the game in jeopardy.

While Mark Smith cooled down slightly after the first half, it was the other Smith in Mizzou’s backcourt that stepped up. Dru, not Mark, was able to add 11 second-half points on a perfect 3-3 shooting to ensure the Tigers would not let their lead slip away.

While the game finished as only an 11 point victory, it wasn’t nearly that close. At halftime, the Tigers held an 11-point lead and never let the Gamecocks cut it to single digits in the entirety of the second half. Now, they will look to carry the momentum from this game into their rematch with No. 6 Tennessee in Knoxville on Saturday.