SEC play rolled on as Missouri ventured to Oxford to take on an Ole Miss team that mirrored the Tigers in many ways. Both sides have had an up and down start to their season, and both sat at 1-3 in conference play. On top of that, each was 1-4 in their past 5 games, desperately needing a win to right the ship.
The Tigers started out strong. Trevon Brazile knocked down an early 3-pointer, and thanks to some steals from Kobe Brown and Boogie Coleman, Mizzou was able to really push the ball up the floor for some easy looks.
The opening ten minutes were highly competitive, with both sides barely giving an inch. Javon Pickett had a strong start offensively with six points and looked more aggressive than he has at any point this season.
The Tigers had a slight edge at the under eight timeout (24-19) in large part thanks to a 16-8 lead on the glass.
Mizzou then took over this game. The defense only allowed Ole Miss to score 5 more points in the half, as they consistently forced tough shots and getting out in transition. Amari Davis started to heat up offensively, and the Tigers took a 15-point lead into the half after a strong finish.
This was one of the better halves of basketball Missouri has played. Davis led in scoring with thirteen, with Travon Brazile right behind him with seven and two blocks. Kobe Brown stuffed the stat sheet as well, with five points, two rebounds, and three assists. Overall, a diverse and efficient offensive first half that saw the Tigers shoot a scorching 56% and forced Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis to use all of his timeouts early on.
“When we all play together and to each other’s strengths, then we can make the game simple,” Coleman said in the post game.
However, the real story was the defense in the half. An Ole Miss team that had gone toe-to-toe with the explosive Auburn Tigers were held to 23 first half points on 26% shooting. Martin’s stalwart defense was showing up in a big way.
The second half began largely the same way. Some Ole Miss turnovers allowed the Tigers to extend their lead to 16.
The Rebels made a run to cut it to 11, but the Tigers responded. A rare Ronnie DeGray III 3-pointer, combined with Amari Davis’ continued hot shooting, built the lead back up to 16.
It was also even more evident in the second half Mizzou was the far more physical team. They challenged every Ole Miss shot at the rim and winning on the glass, not allowing many second chance opportunities.
Ole Miss attempted to make several runs, even putting in a couple of true freshmen to try get a spark, but Amari Davis and Kobe Brown staved off any sort of comeback.
“We just had to stay aggressive, keep our foot on the gas and not let them back into it,” Davis said.
The Tigers ran away with this one late, for a final score of 78-53.
Amari Davis played the second best game a Mizzou player has played this year (see Ko. Brown against Alabama). He had 23 points on a perfect 10/10 shooting, almost exclusively from mid-range.
“I just think the big thing for him is staying aggressive, and us putting him in positions to be aggressive,” Martin said.
Boogie Coleman had a career-high 13 rebounds, showing he can get dirty on the glass.
“I’ve been trying to focus more on rebounding on the team cause we’re a smaller team,” Coleman said. “I know that I have a size advantage on my guy so I try to help.”
“That was one of the things I kinda challenged him with,” Martin explained. “I told him even though you’re a guard you can still rebound.”
Brown and Pickett did their usual thing, putting consistent pressure on the Rebels in the paint. The Tigers only shot seven three-pointers tonight, a season-low.
From start to finish, this was the most complete game Missouri has played. They were in control, won every physical battle, forced Ole Miss to take tough shots, and shot a cool 62.7% from the floor themselves. Perhaps the most surprising statistic: the Tigers shot 57.1% from three point land, something not many thought we would see this year.
“Knowing that we let one get away last week, it was good to get one like this on the road,” Coleman said.
Missouri will hit the road again on Saturday, January 22nd, this time for a rematch with an Alabama team looking for revenge. The Tigers took the Tide down by a score of 92-86 on January 8th, and will take them on at 5:00 CST on the SEC Network .