Down two players in their regular rotation and coming off a COVID pause, the Missouri Tigers (7-7) had their backs up against the wall when they welcomed No. 15 Alabama (11-4) to Mizzou Arena today.
With the daunting task of facing the No. 15 team in America in front of them, Missouri Head Coach Cuonzo Martin’s message to his guys was simple, “You have to dig deep, and believe you’re good enough.”
Naturally, the Crimson Tide, the defending SEC Champions and odds on favorites to repeat, were heavy favorites coming into this game, but a shorthanded Tigers team responded to their head coach’s message and came out firing.
The Tigers started the game on a blistering 9-0 run thanks to 6 quick Kobe Brown points, and they set the tone early. The Crimson Tide battled back thanks to their impressive offensive attack, but for every run by the Tide, the Tigers had an answer.
“Our guys did a tremendous job against a very talented team,” Martin said in the postgame.
Neither team could separate from the other thanks to a couple stellar performers on both sides. For the Crimson Tide it was Jaden Shackelford and Jahvon Quinerly, who each had 10 at the half. For the Tigers it was Kobe Brown and Javon Pickett. Brown, who exploded for a career high 30 points and 13 rebounds, had 17 of the Tigers’ 40 first half points.
When the two teams returned from the locker room, Alabama held a slight edge on the scoreboard, 43-40, but Missouri came out reinvigorated. The Tigers started 7-10 to open the half, while the typically strong Crimson tide offense faltered, and Missouri extended their lead all the way to 18 points with 10:44 left.
While Brown may have been leading the way, it was a wholistic team effort that led to the Tigers’ offensive success. Trevon Brazile provided a monster dunk and block, Boogie Coleman poured in 2 of his 4 threes on his way to 18 points, DaJuan Gordon added 10 of his 15 points in the second half, and Javon Pickett delivered his trademarked penetrating drives en route to 15 points of his own.
Up nearly 20 points, the Tigers were cruising, but with Alabama no team is ever safe.
Kobe Brown picked up his 4th foul with 10 minutes left in the game, and was forced to join Cuonzo Martin on the Missouri bench, taking with him his consistent scoring and rebounding. With no Kobe Brown on the floor, the Missouri offense became much less dangerous and went on a 3 minute scoring drought into the under-eight timeout.
Brown reentered the game with 6:46 left, but with him playing very conservatively, the Tigers were treading water trying to prevent an Alabama comeback.
The relentless Crimson Tide cut it to 8 by the under-four timeout, and to just 6 with 1:14 left. A couple huge threes from Shackelford and Keon Ellis bought the deficit to 4 with 15 seconds left, and the Tide fouled Coleman to try and continue their miraculous comeback.
Being 4-4 from the line on the night, there was good reason for the Tigers to be confident with Coleman at the line, but Coleman missed both. Improbably, the second miss went off an Alabama player out-of-bounds and the Tigers kept the ball.
After catching that break, the Tigers put the game away behind the man that got them there, Kobe Brown.
Brown nailed all four of his free throws in the final ten seconds to finish with an even 30 points, and the Tigers emerged victorious over the No. 15 team in America.
After the game when asked about the upset, Boogie Coleman confidently said, “I’m not surprised too much by it.”