Missouri and Illinois met up for the 52nd time in order to settle Braggin’ Rights tonight. The Fighting Illini looked to vault themselves into Big Ten play with a key rivalry win, while the Tigers were aiming to build off of their win over Utah with another quality victory.
The energy in the Enterprise Center was electric, which was not surprising considering the mass followings each of these schools have in the area.
The game began with Illinois hitting all six of their three point attempts, but Missouri fired back with a couple of their own. The Tiger offense appeared to be energized following the Utah win, but the Illini still looked to be a step ahead.
Illinois took over the game on a 17-2 run that forced Cuonzo Martin to call a timeout. The Illini offense was operating both inside and out, while the Tigers quickly cooled off and fell behind.
Kobe Brown struggled to handle Kofi Cockburn down low. The Illinois big man had 8 points and 5 rebounds early on, but Brown did respond with some plays of his own. The Tigers, led by the Alabama native, went on an 11-0 run that cut the Illini lead to six.
However, Illinois regained control in the final four minutes. They continued to light the Tigers up from deep, and extended the lead back out to double digits.
Outside of a strong run from Missouri in the middle of the half, the Tigers were largely outplayed. Cockburn was effective inside, while the Illini shot 50% from outside the arc. A 4 minute field goal drought to end the half did not help matters for Mizzou either.
Illinois came out of the half the same as they entered it. They nailed three from 3-point land and forced Martin to call a timeout early in the half.
The lead quickly got out of hand, as Illinois entered the under 16 minute timeout with a 26-point advantage. Illinois was doubling the Tigers up on the glass (28-14) and was 8/9 from the field as the game advanced through the second period.
The trio of Cockburn, Frazier, and Plummer continued to cook. They finished with 25, 15, and 22 respectively and led the charge all game long.
The half winded down as Missouri continued to struggle to find any sort of rhythm on offense. The Tigers ended up shooting 25.5% from the field and 22.7% from behind the arc, and the trophy ventured back to the orange and blue case as a result. An 88-63 victory became the largest ever win for either side in the series.
It was yet another rough offensive performance from the Tigers, and Illinois took advantage of that. They could have shot half as well and still won this game. Conference play looms, and a lot has to change within this offense if the Tigers are to make any kind of noise.
There were at least some bright spots. That one spurt in the first half was encouraging and was exactly what this team is capable of doing on a more consistent basis. Trevon Brazile continued to look like a stalwart defensive player with six blocks as well.
The Tigers (6-6) will next take on #20 Kentucky (9-2) on Wednesday, Dec. 29th at 7:00 on the SEC Network. This opens up SEC play for the Tigers, with five more ranked teams (currently) on the future schedule as well.