I didn’t come up with that headline, I’ll admit it. I really wish I would have, because by goodness does it sum up that game perfectly, but credit goes to play-by-play announcer Roy Philpott.
Deep breaths everyone. What a damn game.
There were dunks, ejections, technical fouls, Bruce Pearl screaming until he was red in the face, more technical fouls, and even Torrence Watson hit a three, as Missouri defeated the no. 11 ranked Auburn Tigers, 85-73.
It certainly makes you wish the team could play like that more consistently, but Missouri just recorded its signature win under Cuonzo Martin.
The Tigers have now recorded quality wins over Illinois, Florida, Arkansas and Auburn.
Dru Smith and Xavier Pinson, take your pick for player of the game. With a win like this, both might as well be co-MVPs. Auburn flat out could not stay in front of Pinson, who finished with 28 points, a flurry of highlight reel plays in getting to the rim.
Smith also finished with 28, toying with Auburn with his favorite old-school moves to get into the paint. Both scorers combined for 56 of the 85 points, clear evidence that Missouri is better when Smith is looking to score the ball.
“We stayed aggressive, and we stayed on each other, honestly,” Pinson said.
Auburn will surely be sickened when it looks at the final stats. It shot a putrid 1-17 from three, an extremely uncharacteristic showing from Bruce Pearl’s squad.
“We just went out there and executed the scout sheet very well,” Javon Pickett said of the defensive effort on the perimeter.
Missouri, on the other hand, shot WELL from three, going 7-13 from deep, five of them coming in the first half.
“You have to believe that you’re good enough,” Cuonzo Martin said. “They earned the right to win. When you put the work in, when you prepare, the results will follow.”
The second half devolved into even more of a foul-fest, but Missouri did not lose its composure, even after Auburn’s Devan Cambridge was ejected for stepping on Javon Pickett. It did not lose its composure even after a series of calls went in Auburn’s favor that were questionable at best. The rowdy crowd at Mizzou Arena surely had more colorful words to describe the officiating.
Speaking of Mizzou Arena, over 12,000 fans, a season high, showed up to rock the building like old times, heeding Cuonzo Martin’s call for a strong crowd.
Missouri was in major foul trouble down the stretch. Reed Nikko fouled out, leaving Missouri without a center to guard Auburn’s Austin Wiley, who was a nightmare to defend down low. Wiley finished the night with 22 points.
Nikko was far from the only one. Mitchell Smith fouled out as well, forcing Missouri to go small near the end. Dru Smith and Pinson each played down the stretch with four fouls. Both guards, however, managed to be disciplined, and stayed on the court to help break down the Auburn press.
Missouri made nine of its last 10 free throws to ice the game. Dru Smith finished 12-13 from the line, the team’s most consistent presence from the charity stripe all season long.
With the win, Missouri improves to 12-13 (4-8), while Auburn suffers just its third loss of the season, falling to 22-3 (9-3).
Auburn falls a game back to Kentucky in the race for the conference championship. In this case, Auburn’s loss is Missouri’s gain.
The Tigers that play in Columbia might be able to parlay this into a strong finish to the season. With efforts like the one on display Tuesday, Missouri can win any game left on its schedule.
There have been many times this season where it seemed like anything truly meaningful was off the table, but Missouri has pulled itself back each time. It remains to be seen if the team can be consistent down the stretch for a potential postseason berth, but the last three games have all shown that this team was always capable of playing good basketball.