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Gholston’s buzzer-beater gives Mizzou Hoops a stunning 68-66 victory over UCF

DeAndre Gholston scored all of his 16 points in the second half, including the game-winning three-pointer from the Orange Bowl Classic logo.

NCAA Basketball: Houston Christian at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

DeAndre Gholston picked up a rolling, bounce pass from D’Moi Hodge and launched up a prayer.

The 35-foot, three-point shot banked into the net as the clock expired to give the Missouri Tigers (10-1) an improbable and much-needed victory over the University of Central Florida Knights (8-3).

“I trusted (Hodge), picked it up and I just believed in the shot, and my entire team did,” Gholston said.

Gholston and his 16 points, all of which came in the second half, propelled Mizzou to a 68-66 victory despite UCF’s astonishing comeback in which the Knights erased a 14-point second half deficit and retook the lead with less than a minute remaining.

The unlikely hero for the Tigers benefitted from the extra attention on Honor, who stuffed the stat sheet against his hometown team with a season-high 17 points, including five three-pointers, all in the first half.

“I always had to tell myself it’s just basketball at the end of the day, but it was good being back here,” Honor, who grew up just 10 minutes from UCF’s campus, said.

For Mizzou, who entered the game fresh off a 28-point loss to kansas, the victory meant more than a regular win.

“Whenever you can win a ballgame at a neutral site against an NCAA Tournament team, it gives you confidence, but it also gives you an identity of ways to come out victorious,” Mizzou men’s basketball head coach Dennis Gates said.

UCF, who displayed a bend but don’t break attitude, utilized its defensive pressure to disrupt the Tigers early on and in the game’s final minutes, but fell less than one second short of its second victory over a SEC opponent in the past week.

Mizzou, meanwhile, capitalized on an efficient shooting display from beyond the arc, drilling 13 total three-pointers, including nine in the first half alone. Those long-range baskets atoned for the Tigers’ slow start to the contest.

“I was hoping it’d be a three-month drought where both teams has a tough time scoring, but they ended up knocking down some jump shots,” Gates said.

UCF, behind its fearsome duo of CJ Kelly and Darius Johnson, who combined for 28 points, 11 assists and six rebounds, leapt out to a 10-0 lead within the first five minutes of the first half. Kelly scored the game’s first five points, knocking down a three-pointer and driving to the lane for a layup.

The Tigers responded following a media timeout, utilizing its skilled ball movement to set up a pair of three-pointers from Honor and senior forward Noah Carter. Carter, who finished with six points and three rebounds, passed the 1,000-point plateau with the basket.

Mizzou’s three-point flurry continued behind Honor, who made his first five long-distance attempts, and a three-point make from senior forward Kobe Brown, his first since Dec. 4 against Southeast Missouri State, to make it an 18-14 Tigers’ advantage.

“What I’m proud about is our guys responding to a run, and when you can respond to a run, it’s all good,” Gates said.

UCF then pieced together a 19-14 stretch, fighting back behind Kelly and Johnson as well as Ithiel Horton, who drilled a pair of three-point baskets to complete the comeback and knot the game at 33 points apiece.

Building off the momentum from Horton’s back-to-back baskets from beyond the arc, Kelly converted a three-point play after being fouled on a fast break layup to retake the lead before halftime. A layup from Mizzou junior forward Ronnie DeGray III quieted the rally and sent both teams to the locker room with a one-point advantage for UCF.

After the half time intermission, the Tigers flipped the script on the Knights.

“We started the second half...beating them with their own defensive technique,” Honor said. “We kind of packed it in a little bit and made them make their own mistakes.”

UCF missed its first nine shot attempts of the second half, allowing Mizzou to establish its own rhythm and race out to a dominant 16-1 run. Gholston and graduate guard D’Moi Hodge, who tallied 15 points and four rebounds, led the charge with 13 of those points.

The Knights did not give up, however, piecing together a methodical comeback over the remainder of the game to retake the lead with just 54 seconds remaining. Redshirt senior guard Ithiel Horton led this comeback attempt, finishing with a team-high 19 points, including 10 in the second half alone with a trio of three-pointers.

Horton, with the help of standout freshman forward Taylor Hendricks, helped the Knights mount a 15-5 run to flip a 60-51 Mizzou lead into a 66-65 advantage for UCF with less than a minute to go.

The ensuing Tigers’ possession ended in a negative way, as Gholston committed an offensive charge, spelling doom for Mizzou. Instead of fouling down by one point, however, Gates told his team to defend.

“Most coaches would start fouling and allow their teams to go up three and play a free throw game,” Gates said. “I wanted to play the analytics of it. It was a six-second difference and I knew if we got to rebound, it would be enough time to send the scrambling defense on their heels.”

Hodge grabbed the rebound following a missed jumper from UCF redshirt sophomore guard Jayhlon Young, and worked it up the floor as several Knights surrounded him. Amidst the pandemonium, the veteran ended up on the floor and somehow managed to bounce a pass to Gholston, who picked it up and heaved it as the horn sounded.

The ball floated through the air, banked off the backboard and found the bottom of the net for a game-winner.

“(Gholston) beat me at Cleveland State on a buzzer beater, and he did that again against Wright State,” Gates said.

“This one probably is the best one though,” Gholston added.

The Tigers won despite losing the rebound and turnover battle, showcasing their ability to win a game unlike any of their regular season wins. It displayed that Mizzou can win, even when things don’t go to plan.

The Tigers will return to Missouri on Thursday for their next game, but not to Columbia. Missouri travels eastward to face the Illinois Fighting Illini in the annual Braggin’ Rights game in St. Louis. Illinois is off to a hot start this season, as the nation’s No. 18-ranked team at 7-3.

UCF, on the other hand, will look to rebound against Stetson on Wednesday before beginning the gauntlet of AAC play against Wichita State and No. 5 Houston. The Knights, hopeful of a NCAA Tournament bid in March, will hope to steal one of those contests.