Missouri outlasted Arkansas 79-76 in a game of attrition at Mizzou Arena. The two teams combined for 56 fouls and shot a combined 66 free throws in a game that took nearly three hours of real time.
“We knew coming in it was going to be an unbelievably physical, compelling game,” Dennis Gates said. “Regardless of how physical the game is, you have to play it.”
Kobe Brown led the way with 17 points and six rebounds, but four other Tigers added on seven or more points.
Without Noah Carter and Mabor Majak (due to health and safety protocols), other players had to step up. Isiaih Mosley, Aiden Shaw and Mohamed Diarra did just that, combining for 20 points to pick up the slack.
The Tigers trailed 67-57 with 5:07 remaining in this game. After being crippled by foul trouble and poor perimeter shooting, the home team looked out of this game.
Then, they made one last run.
Sean East II, D’Moi Hodge, and some gritty offensive rebounding from Kobe Brown brought the Tigers back into it. They cut the lead to seven, then five, then three, and then a DeAndre Gholston three-pointer tied the game with 2:28 remaining.
The tension only raised from there, as the two teams continued to go back-and-forth. Arkansas hit plenty of free throws, but DeAndre Gholston responded with a clutch fadeway jumper to keep the score tied at 71 with 43.7 seconds remaining.
The rest of this game was won at the free throw line. The Tigers got just enough defensive stops to take a lead, and they closed the game out from the stripe, shooting 8-for-8 in the final minutes.
Missouri ended the game on a 22-9 scoring run.
“The biggest thing in college basketball right now is the way you respond,” Gholston said. “To referees, to runs, to the fans, it’s all about how you respond.”
In a game that they badly needed to win, Missouri did not come out looking like it. The Tigers began this game 0-for-7 from the floor and struggled to even get into their set plays thanks to Arkansas’ ball pressure.
Meanwhile, the Razorbacks were able to penetrate into the paint and get some quality looks. They held a 7-0 lead with 16:35 in the first half, causing Dennis Gates to call a timeout.
Then, in his first game in over a month, Mosley subbed in and made an immediate impact. The Missouri State transfer lost a defender before rimming out a three, but he responded by getting a steal and sparking a fast break. He played like a different player in this game, creating havoc on the defensive end and hunting his shot on the offensive end. Mosley finished with eight points on the night.
Mizzou climbed back to make this a 12-12 game at the 8:29 mark, with the duo of Mosley and Diarra leading the way. Diarra hit his first three-pointer of the season and was more active on the floor than he has been all season, inspiring the comeback.
The Razorbacks went on a four-minute scoring drought in the middle of the half, and it largely occurred due to turnovers. They finished with 14 in the half, mainly forced by Mizzou.
Brown had a couple of steals that led to transition buckets, and the Tigers as a whole recorded nine in the first 20 minutes. Those live-ball turnovers allowed Mizzou to do what they do best: get out and run the floor.
The Tigers tied the game at 15 at the under eight minute timeout thanks to a Shaw three-pointer. From there, these two teams battled.
Both sides ended up in the double-bonus by the eight minute mark, as ten players pick up two fouls in the first half. The physical and aggressive nature of play in this game put the refs to work.
“We had to make sure were strong with the ball, finish through contact and not complain to the refs,” Gates said. “I thought we handled it in a very professional way.”
Back-and-forth scoring highlighted the closing minutes of the half, as momentum continued to swing back and forth. Davonte Davis’ eight late points carried the Hogs, highlighted by a three-pointer with five seconds left to take the lead into halftime.
The two teams were opposite images of each other in the first half. Arkansas shot the ball well, finishing 59 percent from the floor, but they could not hold onto the ball. Missouri held on to the ball well (only five turnovers), but they shot an ice-cold 37 percent from the floor and 21 percent from three-point range.
Mizzou started the second half how they ended the first. Hodge picked the pocket of Arkansas’ guards on two occasions, allowing the Tigers to get out and run. On top of that, Davis began the half cold, missing his first three 3-point attempts.
Those factors allowed Missouri to claim a 43-37 lead at the 16:39 mark, their largest lead of the game up to that point.
Arkansas mounted a 12-4 run thanks to improved ball movement on offense, forcing Gates to take a timeout with 12:21 left in the half. The Razorbacks maintained that momentum over the next couple of minutes thanks to some solid free throw shooting. The Hogs took advantage of the frequent foul calls in this game, shooting 23-for-26 from the line after getting into the bonus early on in the second half.
While fouls and free throws will dominant the headlines of this game, two factors continued to plague Mizzou. They shot 25 percent from behind the arc, their third straight game struggling from deep. They were also out-rebounded 42-23 by a much bigger Arkansas team.
However, their ability to overcome all of that shows marked improvement over the last two games.
The Tigers will have another shot at a ranked opponent when they host No. 4 Alabama (16-4, 6-0) on Saturday at 5:00 p.m. CST. The game can be seen on the SEC Network.