As Aidan Shaw rose into the air, caught an alley-oop pass from Isiaih Mosley and slammed home a reverse layup in front of a sellout crowd at Mizzou Arena Saturday evening, the Missouri Tigers looked ready to make it four consecutive victories over the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Alabama (17-2, 7-0 SEC), the nation’s fourth-ranked team, stymied that upset attempt, however, capitalizing on its opportunities when it mattered most to take down Mizzou (14-5, 3-4 SEC) and remain undefeated in Southeastern Conference play with a 85-64 victory.
“One game doesn’t define us, but I am proud of our team,” Missouri men’s basketball head coach Dennis Gates said.
The Crimson Tide outscored the Tigers 21-9 in the game’s ‘Middle 8,’ which incorporates the final four minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second half. That rally built Alabama’s lead from four points to 16 and showcased its ability to score from any spot on the court.
“That is consistently how (Alabama has) played,” Gates said. “We didn't mitigate it at all.”
Senior guard Jahvon Quinerly (13 points), freshman forward Brandon Miller (15), freshman forward Noah Clowney (17) and junior guard Mark Sears (17) formed a fearsome quartet during the stretch, accounting for 19 of the Crimson Tide’s 21 points in the Middle 8.
Clowney added 14 rebounds, giving him his second double-double of the season. Alabama finished with 53 total rebounds, eclipsing Mizzou’s mark of 45. The Tigers also lost the battle on the offensive glass, grabbing two fewer offensive rebounds than the Crimson Tide and losing the second-chance points duel, 21-7.
“(Clowney) has played really well for us,” Alabama men’s basketball head coach Nate Oats said. “There’s a reason he’s played as many minutes as he’s been playing this season.”
Mizzou, without leading scorer and rebounder Kobe Brown, who was ruled out just before game time with an ankle injury, searched for its go-to scorer. The Tigers found glimpses of potential with Mosley, a senior guard who has seen limited action, and graduate guard DeAndre Gholston, but they could not overcome their missing star.
Mosley tallied a team-high 19 points off the bench, eight of which came in the first half, and Gholston added 10, also off the bench. Senior guard Sean East II and junior forward Mohamed Diarra provided a spark in the second half, posting eight points apiece as well.
The Tigers found success early on after falling behind 9-2 within the game’s opening minutes, fighting back from the deficit behind Mosley and Gholston before Shaw, a freshman forward, punctuated the comeback with a signature slam to give Mizzou a one-point advantage.
From there, however, Alabama capitalized on Mizzou’s foul trouble and knocked down nine free throws over the remainder of the first half. The Crimson Tide finished 25-32 from the charity stripe as the Tigers committed 21 fouls.
Alabama, after starting out 6-21 from the field, rediscovered sparks of its efficient shooting, but still only finished with a 36.8% mark on the evening. Despite starting out 1-12 from three-point range as well, the Crimson Tide drilled 10 of its 35 attempts from beyond the arc.
A majority of those long range shots occurred in the second half, a frame in which Alabama tallied two separate runs of five or more points to seal the Tigers’ fate and pick up its first victory in Columbia since the 2019 season.
Mizzou countered with a less than stellar 32.9% field goal percentage, including a season-low 10.7% (3-28) tally from the three-point line. The performance continues to signal a trend in SEC play, where the Tigers entered having shot 29.5% from long distance.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well,” Gates said. “Missed open shot after open shot.”
Despite the struggles, Mizzou did feature one last comeback attempt midway through the second half. Trailing by 21 points, Mosley lifted a three-point jumper into the air and connected.
He immediately folded his hands into a praying motion, seemingly hinting at how rare and unbelievable Mizzou’s three-point drop-off has been. The ‘prayer’ was answered with a Gholston three-pointer and a pair of baskets to cut the deficit to 13 points within minutes.
A three-pointer from Alabama freshman guard Rylan Griffen quieted the response and the Crimson Tide closed out their victory via the free throw line.
Part of the Tigers’ early success against the Crimson Tide centered around their defense, which forced seven first half turnovers and translated those miscues into 14 points. That effort disappeared in the second half, as Alabama had only four turnovers and Mizzou scored only four points on those misses.
The Tiger also outscored the Crimson Tide 30-26 in the paint, even without Brown.
“You look at the fact that we still beat the ‘No. 1’ team in points in the paint and we had one of the best field goal shooters out,” Gates said.
Mizzou will have the opportunity to bounce back when they face Ole Miss in Oxford on Tuesday night and then face a ranked Iowa State program one week from today at home. However, the Tigers will need to avoid losing a ‘trap game’ to the Rebels before focusing on the Cyclones.