In their last non-Power 6 game of the season, the Missouri Tigers took down Southeast Missouri State by a score of 96-89 at Mizzou Arena.
The Tigers led for the majority of this game but had to stave off a couple of SEMO runs. Kobe Brown led the way with 25 points, eight rebounds and four assists in a complete performance, while the team as a whole assisted on 17-of-34 made baskets.
“If he shoots the ball like he did tonight, there’s no doubt that he will be a first round draft pick,” Dennis Gates said in reference to Brown, who shot 9-for-12 today.
Despite the “trap game” label, Missouri came out looking locked in. The Tigers jumped out to a 20-11 lead at the under twelve timeout thanks to some great transition play and Brown’s dominance down-low. The Redhawks struggled to find anything consistently on the offensive end, as the Tiger defense just kept forcing them into turnovers poor shots.
After the lead extended to as much as 34-20 later in the half, SEMO cut it to single-digits behind some hot shooting from Phillip Russell. The sophomore from St. Louis showed out with 26 points on the day, and he had 16 in the first half on 6-for-10 shooting.
“He played with passion, his teammates spaced the floor and set him up well with screens,” Gates said of Russell. “At the end of the day, sometimes two teams play very well, but one of them has to lose. I am very fortunate that we came out on the right end.”
After trailing for most of the half, the Redhawks managed to cut the Tiger lead to just three on multiple occasions at the end of the half. While Mizzou appeared to get somewhat complacent on the defensive end, Russell remained hot from the field, and the Redhawks began to win battles for loose balls.
“We don’t look at the scoreboard,” Sean East II said. “We know that if they go on a run, our run is coming. We just have to stay focused on the game at hand.”
The Tigers regained focus both offensively and defensively, forcing SEMO into a 2:08 scoring drought to end the half. Mizzou ended the half with an exclamation point with multiple fast-break buckets and a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Kobe Brown to extend the lead to 50-40 at halftime.
The two sides began the second half neck-and-neck, but a quick stretch with a Tre Gomillion layup, followed by a steal off the an inbounds play and a Nick Honor 3-pointer turned this game quickly. The Missouri lead expanded to as much as 18 at the thirteen-minute mark, as some hot 3-point shooting from Nick Honor (11 points) and four turnovers from the Redhawks provided the cushion.
East II also tacked on eleven points in the second half. The senior from Louisville scored a couple of key buckets down the stretch, and he finished with 21 points on the day.
“To see him continue to grow, it shows the level of comfort that he has,” Gates said of East.
Missouri made it to the free throw line plenty throughout the latter half of this game, as SEMO cut the lead to as little as six down the stretch. The Tigers shot 11 free throws in the second half, making eight of them, which went a long way in clinching this game.
“I’m not on the sideline panicking,” Gates said. “I’m telling the guys in a calm voice what we’re going to do. And, they reflect that out there.”
The transition points became the story of the game. The Tigers scored 31 points in the open floor and had 29 points off of turnovers. Whenever they picked up a loose ball, got one of their 15 steals or rebounded after a missed SEMO shot, this Missouri team looked to run and push the ball in transition. The likes of Kobe Brown, Aidan Shaw, Sean East II and plenty of others benefitted from the up-tempo style of play.
Missouri will host arch-rivals #9 kansas (8-1) in the Hy-Vee Hoops Border Showdown next Saturday at 4:15 p.m. CST. The game can be seen on ESPN.