Looking for a signature victory to add to its résumé, the Missouri Tigers answered the call against the No. 12 Iowa State Cyclones on Saturday in Columbia.
The matchup featured two teams ranked among the top-five in defensive efficiency, but offensive efficiency proved to be the difference, as the Tigers withstood a fierce Cyclones’ defense in a 78-61 victory.
Mizzou shot 49.1% from the field, including a 46.7% tally from beyond the arc, signaling the signs of a turnaround following last week’s abysmal 3-point performance against Alabama. Defensively, the Tiger wreaked havoc as well, forcing 19 Iowa State turnovers and turning those into 20 points.
“Sometimes you can’t control makes or misses,” Missouri men’s basketball head coach Dennis Gates said. “But ultimately you can have great shot selection and obviously get back on defense and give your very best.”
The former Big 8/Big 12 foes met for the final rendition of the SEC-Big 12 Challenge, which will be replaced with an ACC-SEC Challenge beginning next season. Mizzou channelled its Big 8 success of the 1980s against the Cyclones while celebrating Alumni Weekend.
Four different Tigers scored in double-figures, led by Kobe Brown who scored a game-high 20 points and added 12 rebounds for his second double-double of the season. Graduate guard D’Moi Hodge added 17 points and five rebounds.
Brown put on a show in front of a sellout crowd, terrorizing the offensive glass with five offensive rebounds while adding three assists and three steals in an all-around performance.
“(Brown) was so physical and aggressive,” Iowa State men’s basketball head coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “He’s tough matchup. He’s a hard cover, but I’d say, more than that, was how aggressive he was and his intent.”
Brown’s impact looked as if it might decline when he fell to the ground and grabbed his ankle following a foul under the basket late in the first half, but the senior forward displayed his toughness, checking in minutes later and immediately making a difference on the boards.
Graduate guards Nick Honor and Hodge combined for 29 points on 9-of-17 shooting from the 3-point line. Their impact began immediately and featured an aspect of the Tigers’ potent offense that had been lacking against premier opponents.
Senior guards Jaren Holmes and Gabe Kalscheur led the Cyclones offensively with 19 and 14 points, respectively.
Mizzou and Iowa State embodied the ‘3 and D’ mentality from tipoff, as both teams forced turnovers on their first defensive possessions.
The Cyclones, in response to a Hodge turnover, scored their first points via a layup on the ensuing possession, while Honor drilled a 3-pointer to jumpstart the Mizzou offense.
That recipe continued throughout a first half that included totals of 11 three-pointers, 17 turnovers and 14 points off turnovers, each of which favored the hometown Tigers.
“Our guys forced a great team to 19 turnovers,” Gates said.
Mizzou jumped out to an early six-point advantage, capitalizing on Honor’s make as well as a 3-pointer from Brown, who scored 14 first half points alongside five rebounds in the opening frame.
From there, the Tigers and Cyclones traded a series of runs, showcasing their respective strengths.
Mizzou flashed its speed, free throw shooting and shot-making ability, while Iowa State discovered a healthy balance between its 3-point shooting and shots within the arc.
Iowa State, trailing 15-8, drilled a quartet of 3-pointers as a part of a run midway through the first half that flipped their deficit into a one-point advantage.
Their flurry proved to be short-lived, however, as Mizzou fought back with its own efficient stretch, outscoring the Cyclones 8-1 over the following two minutes.
Senior guard Isiaih Mosley, who finished with eight points, ignited the run with a crucial 3-pointer that gave the Tigers the lead for good.
“That run to end the first half, I think gave us some momentum,” Gates said.
Mizzou entered the halftime locker room with a 42-32 advantage despite being out-rebounded 21-10 including a -9 margin on the offensive glass. Even with those added chances, Iowa State only materialized nine second-chance points, just five more than the Tigers.
Following the intermission, Mizzou took off right where it left off.
Honor, the third-leading Tigers’ scorer with 12 points, drilled a pair of 3-pointers, as Mizzou stormed out of the gate on a 13-5 run. Mosley capped the stretch with another 3-pointer, this time off an Iowa State turnover.
The Cyclones turned to Kalscheur to quiet the surge, and the senior guard scored eight of Iowa State’s next 14 points to keep them within striking distance. After each make, however, the Tigers had an answer.
DeAndre Gholston, who tallied eight second half points, provided the most emphatic punch with a four-point play midway through the final frame, draining a 3-point jumper while being fouled.
Needing a spark of momentum, the Cyclones countered with a 6-0 run, but scored only five points in the game’s final seven minutes. The Tigers held Iowa State to 25% shooting in the second half and forced eight more turnovers.
“To have a Quad One win in January is very important,” Gates said.
After improving to 3-3 in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge and picking up only its fourth victory over the Big 12 since its departure, Mizzou will face LSU at 8 p.m. on Wednesday in Columbia, looking to pick up another SEC victory and improve to above-.500 in conference play.