Missouri outlasted Mississippi State 66-64 in overtime at Mizzou Arena on Tuesday thanks some late heroics from Nick Honor.
Both teams traded tough buckets throughout this game, but the Tigers came out on top thanks to 33 combined points from Kobe Brown and D’Moi Hodge, as well as a team-high 10 rebounds from Tre Gomillion.
“He’s [Gomillion] probably the most valuable player we have,” Honor said. “He just does everything nobody else wants to do, even though it doesn’t show up in the stat sheet.”
In his second game back from injury, Gomillion proved to be a difference maker. He and Mohamed Diarra made major impacts on the glass and on the defensive end, and it was all thanks to their high energy and effort.
“Whenever someone steps up and make plays, that’s what you need,” Dennis Gates said. “And that’s the spirit that we will continue to play with.”
Missouri (20-8, 8-7) also managed to record 11 steals in this game. Brown led the way with five steals, tying a career-high for the senior.
Arguably the most notable statistic of this game was one player’s stat line. After going for 25 points and 12 rebounds in the first matchup against Missouri, Tolu Smith had only 14 points and 10 rebounds in this game.
“There’s no post player that embraces being back-to-the-basket the way that he does,” Gates said. “We were able to throw different looks at him, and he never got comfortable with just one person guarding him.”
While those are still solid numbers, his early struggles forced MSU to play primarily on the perimeter. The Tigers threw a ton of bodies at Smith throughout the game, and he rarely got a clean look from the post.
In overtime, Honor opened the scoring with a tough, contested three-pointer. But, as they had done all game, the Bulldogs responded with one of their own from D.J. Jeffries.
After a Tiger turnover, Smith got deep post position and gave MSU a 62-60 lead 2:44 remaining in the overtime period. Noah Carter responded with a three-pointer to take a one-point lead, but Dashawn Davis took it right back with a jumper to make it 64-63 with 20 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing possession, Honor dribbled the ball up the floor and would never relinquish it. He got a switch on Smith, sized him up, and then hit a step-back three to take the lead for good.
“Nick Honor may not have been the shooting the ball the way I know he can, but I know what has been taking place behind the scenes and he’s never stopped putting in the work,” Gates said.
Both teams traded buckets to start this game. After the Bulldogs took a quick 5-0 lead, Missouri responded behind 11 points from Hodge in the opening eight minutes. All of this points were needed, because the rest of the Tiger offense started out 1-for-8 from the field.
Mississippi State (18-10, 6-9) held a 17-13 lead at the 11:26 mark of the first half, but Mizzou mounted an 8-2 run over the course of the next four minutes to take back the lead.
After struggling in the opening minutes, the defensive intensity picked up for the Tigers. They forced a shot clock violation and had three steals by the 7:34 mark of the opening half. Most importantly, Smith had not attempted a shot up until that point of the game.
Smith would eventually get on the board with 4:39 remaining before the break, but he finished with only four points in the opening half. A team effort on the defensive glass and some great post denial from Brown and co. prevented Smith from finding his offensive rhythm.
The two teams remained neck-and-neck through the rest of the half. Mississippi State claimed a 34-31 lead at halftime after Shakeel Moore got Diarra to bite on a shot fake from behind the arc and drew a foul. That would be Diarra’s third foul of the game after he had had a productive first half (two points, two assists, two rebounds).
Hodge led the way with 11 points, while Brown tacked on seven in the opening half. The duo also combined for six steals.
A 10-to-3 assist-to-turnover ratio headlined an efficient first half for the Tiger offense. But, for every score Missouri got, the Bulldogs responded with one of their own. They shot 6-for-15 from behind the arc in the opening half, eclipsing their usual 28% shooting clip from deep.
Both offenses stalled in the opening minutes of the second half. A Hodge three-pointer opened the scoring, but the Tigers went on a four minute field goal drought after that.
Gomillion sparked the Mizzou offense with seven straight points, but nobody outside of Hodge was a consistent threat on the offensive end up to this point in the game.
The offensive struggles caused Missouri to trail 44-40 with 11:56 remaining in the game.
Then, the Tigers began to get out in transition, allowing them to tie the game at 44 at the 10:04 mark of the second half. Mizzou Arena erupted after Brown caught a lob one-handed from Honor, and the place got even louder when he tied it on a layup.
Smith and Brown traded and-ones in a moment that emphasized how tightly contested this game was. The two stars clearly made the decision to go through any defenders that were in front of them in the second half, and it worked.
Missouri led 48-47 with 7:37 remaining in the game, and they clung to a slim lead down the stretch.
Up two with 19 seconds remaining, the Tigers got a stop. But Hodge missed the front end of a one-and-one, keeping MSU’s hopes alive. Smith drew a foul on the next possession and tied the game from the line.
With 2.4 seconds remaining in regulation and the score tied at 57, Missouri was inbounding the ball under their own basket. Sean East II found Brown under the rim for a layup, but it rimmed out, sending the game to overtime.
“It was a game that had remnants of March,” Gates said.
The Tigers will take on Georgia (16-11, 6-8) in Athens on Saturday. The game can be seen on the SEC Network at noon central time.