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Brown, Hodge propel Missouri to the Round of 32

The star duo for the Tigers combined for 42 points on 15-for-22 shooting, with most of those points coming in the second half.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round-Utah State vs Missouri Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time since 2010 (4745 days to be exact), Missouri will be moving on to the Round of 32 after defeating Utah State 76-65 in Sacramento on Thursday.

Kobe Brown and D’Moi Hodge led the way for the Tigers, combining for 42 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and six steals. Most of their production came in the second half, with each of them going on individual scoring runs to score 28 of Mizzou’s 41 second-half points.

The Tigers (25-9) forced Utah State to shoot 4-for-24 from behind the arc in this game, which tied for its worst performance of the season. The Aggies also turned the ball over 15 times, leading to 23 points for Mizzou.

Still, Utah State (26-9) had the upper hand early in the second half.

With his team trailing 49-47 with 10:46 remaining in the game, Brown decided to take matters into his own hands. He scored 12 straight points for Mizzou, showcasing his ability to score at all three levels in an inspired performance.

Hodge followed Brown’s personal scoring run with a 3-pointer of his own, forcing Ryan Odom to take a timeout with his team trailing 62-53 at the 5:25 mark.

That did little to change the ensuing outcome. Hodge hit another 3-pointer, this time a pull-up in transition. That extended the Tiger lead to eleven, their largest of the game.

From there, Missouri iced the game from the free throw line, closing the door on Utah State’s season.

Utah State’s normally potent perimeter offense failed in the opening minutes, as the Aggies began 0-for-6 from behind the arc. The Tigers did not fare much better from deep, but Brown and Noah Carter were able to frequently penetrate into the paint and create scoring opportunities. The Aggies could not physically match up with that duo, and it allowed Mizzou to claim an 18-12 lead at the 11:58 mark.

Missouri’s defensive intensity remained high throughout the opening half, and it forced Utah State into eight turnovers in the opening period. Hodge’s two early steals and pair of 3-pointers set the tone, and the Tigers maintained a comfortable lead throughout much of the half.

A 4:04 field goal drought for Missouri allowed the Aggies to close the gap to 28-25 with 3:47 remaining in the half. Thanks to some late layups from Steve Ashworth, Utah State was able to remain within striking distance going into halftime, trailing 35-31.

The Tigers were successful in taking away Utah State’s perimeter shooting, as the Aggies did not hit a 3-pointer in a half for the first time this season. However, they did score 26 of their points in the paint, and foul trouble plagued Mizzou throughout the first half.

Carter led the way with 10 points and four rebounds in the opening period, and Brown was a perfect 3-for-3 from the field despite being hindered by two fouls that he picked up early on.

The Aggies appeared to find their stroke from behind the arc in the opening minutes of the second half, with Ashworth and Taylor Funk each hitting a 3-pointer.

That seemed to spark Utah State as a team. They claimed a quick 36-35 lead out of the half, and the Aggies put pressure on Mizzou and forced them into uncharacteristic mistakes on both ends of the floor. However, the Tigers were able to regain momentum from that point.

Missouri will now await the winner of the No. 2 Arizona (28-6) and No. 15 Princeton (21-8). The game will take place on Saturday, with time and channel still to be determined.