Jan. 22, 2013
COLUMBIA, Mo. The 22nd-ranked Missouri Tigers missed 22 of their first 25 three point attempts Tuesday night at Mizzou Arena against the visiting South Carolina Gamecocks, but they hit a pair of clutch threes in the final 1:10 to key a thrilling 71-65 comeback win.
Jabari Brown hit the last three of the night, a clutch trey from the left wing with 14 seconds to play and the Tigers (14-4 overall, 3-2 in SEC play) holding a slim 66-65 lead. His three made it 69-65 and effectively iced the game, as the Gamecocks (11-7, 1-4) fouled Tiger forward Tony Criswell after a missed shot on their ensuing possession. Criswell sank both free throws with four seconds left to account for the final score.
Less than a minute earlier, it was guard Earnest Ross who hit just as big of a shot from long range, when he sank a contested three with 1:10 left to give Mizzou a 66-63 lead. Ross, who came off the bench and wasn't completely 100 percent after injuring his back last week against Georgia, scored a game-high and personal season-high 21 points on the night.
Frank Haith's team needed a furious second-half rally to overcome a rough first half which saw Mizzou shoot just 20.0% in the opening 20 minutes as South Carolina claimed a 35-27 halftime lead. The USC lead would grow to 13 points (41-28 with 17:11 left) for the visiting Gamecocks and their Coach Frank Martin, but a quick 5-0 mini run for Mizzou got the Tigers within striking distance.
Brown's trey capped a 17-point night for the sophomore guard, and it negated an ice-cold shooting night for the Tigers, who shot only 18.5% from three-point range (5-of-27), while shooting just 33.3% overall in the game (19-of-57 FGs).
Not to be overlooked was the huge performance by center Alex Oriakhi. The senior post scored 18 points, including a perfect 10-of-10 from the foul line, and added 11 rebounds to the cause. Ross added 10 rebounds of his own for his third double-double of the season (first since 10 points and 11 rebounds on Nov. 22nd against Stanford). Oriakhi netted his sixth double-double of the season before fouling out with 46.8 seconds left in the game.
In a very physical game, the Tigers held up well, as they shot 28-of-36 from the foul line (77.8%) as a team, outscoring South Carolina (11-of-17 FTs) by 17 points from the charity stripe. That effectiveness from the line certainly helped balance the tough shooting night from the floor.
Junior guard Phil Pressey had a game-high seven assists and added six points and two steals in the win, which extended Mizzou's home-court winning streak to 12 games.
South Carolina came out aggressive early on, and led for the final 16:13 of the first half. The Gamecocks' biggest margin was nine points in the opening half, as USC made 5-of-10 three-pointers in the opening half. Carolina shot just 1-of-10 from long distance after halftime, and they connected 36.9% from the floor overall on the night (24-of-65 FGs).
A 20-2 Tiger scoring run early in the second half set the stage for the big comeback. After the Gamecocks took their 13-point lead on a layin by Michael Carrera with 17:11 to play (giving them a 41-28 lead), Mizzou scored five straight, and after another Carrera bucket made it 43-33, Mizzou scored 15 straight points to take a 48-43 lead with 11:50 left. Brown had nine points in that stretch, and his three-pointer with 12:43 left tied it up at 43-apiece. With 12:25 left, Brown was fouled after rebounding a South Carolina miss, and he hit one of two free throws to give Mizzou its first lead (44-43) since the 17:40 mark of the first half.
Up next for Mizzou will be another home game, as the Tigers will play host to the Vanderbilt Commodores Saturday afternoon at Mizzou Arena. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. (central time).