Missouri showed some competitive fire in a hard-fought contest against Alabama, but the Crimson Tide outlasted the visitors 93-75 at Coleman Coliseum on Tuesday.
Tamar Bates and Nick Honor combined for 37 points and the Tigers shot a sizzling 49.1% from the floor, but Nate Oats’ team won the battle on the boards by 12 and out-scored the Tigers 13-6 in the final three minutes of the game.
And, as has been the case for much of the season, cold stretches plagued this Tiger team in this game. The black and gold had three separate three minutes stretches of scoreless basketball, and Bama was able to outscore the visitors 18-0 during that time.
Entering the game as one of the most prolific offenses in the country, the Crimson Tide lived up to their reputation and then some. They shot 52.6% from the floor, 48.1% from behind the arc and had a handful of dominant scoring runs. It was also hard to keep count on the amount of lobs that Bama threw up, as Oats’ bunch did their best “Lob City” impression on Tuesday.
And, surprisingly enough, Mark Sears was not much of a factor. The SEC’s leading scorer scored two points in the early minutes before he left the game with an injury late in the opening half, although he did return in the second. Instead, Rylen Griffin and Aaron Estrada led the way for the Tide, combing for 42 points.
These two sides exchanged haymakers early on. Mizzou started out 5-for-5 from the floor while Bama shot a modest 3-for-5. The Tigers jumped out to a 10-8 lead as a result, but a scoring drought that featured six-straight misses put the visitors behind the 8-ball.
When the rest of the team went cold, Jesus Carrelero Martin was the one that kept Mizzou within striking distance. He went on a personal 5-0 run to bring Mizzou back into the game and hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first half. Carralero Martin had only made three from deep all season coming into Tuesday, and he finished with 10 points in this game.
Still, the home team remained hot from the floor, as Griffen and Estrada continued to create for themselves offensively. Alabama’s up-tempo offensive style and superior athleticism allowed it to manufacture plenty of fast-break points as well.
The Crimson Tide lead grew to as much as 11 at the 4:15 mark of the first half, but some clutch, tough shooting from Anthony Robinson II, Nick Honor and Bates allowed Mizzou to rally and only be down 36-34 going into halftime.
Robinson really appeared to settle into the pace of SEC play in this one, as he finished with five points, two rebounds and a steal after scoring just three points through the start of SEC play. He wasn’t afraid to attack Alabama defenders and was gritty on the defensive end, a sign that he is taking the next step forward in his development.
The Tigers continued to keep pace in the second half, as the Crimson Tide lead never grew to more than five in the first seven minutes. That was in large part due to some intense play from Mizzou, as a host of Tigers got into it with some Bama players throughout this game.
In the first half, Robinson showed no backdown on a jump ball opportunity and a small scuffle ensued. Oats pushed Aidan Shaw back to his bench after the Tiger forward backed up in his point guard, which resulted in an apology from the Alabama head coach after the game.
After the break, Robinson was blocked by Grant Nelson, but the rangy Alabama forward proceeded to talk trash to Robinson in his face. That resulted in a technical foul. Following that, Bates then went after a loose ball and got into it with a couple more Crimson Tide players.
This all led to a 55-51 advantage for Alabama, and Mizzou’s competitive fire was a large reason that it was still in the game. It was a back-and-forth affair for most of the ensuing minutes, and a double technical was even handed out between Noah Carter and Latrell Wrightsell Jr. to continue the trend of heated play.
But, when it came to crunch time, the Crimson Tide showed that they are the more consistent, efficient squad. They got to the free throw line, stuffed Mizzou on the defensive end and fed off of the home crowd’s energy en route to a 74-67 lead with 4:32 remaining in the game.
And then, the hero of the night for Alabama struck again. Griffen knocked down a pair of 3-pointers that put the game on ice, and the Tide lead expanded to as much as 20 down the stretch.
The Tigers will return home to host Florida (11-6, 1-3) on Saturday at 7 p.m. CST. The game can be seen on ESPNU, and perhaps most importantly, the famous Red Panda will be a part of the halftime festivities.