Missouri goes Duck hunting in victory over No. 21 Oregon.
On Wednesday night, Missouri notched its first road win against a ranked opponent since 2012.
Dec. 03, 2020
For the first time since 2012, Missouri returned to Omaha, Neb., the site of one of the program’s most heartbreaking moments; an 85-83 loss to 15-seed Norfolk State in the NCAA Tournament.
Eight years later, Missouri exorcised its demons with a statement 83-75 victory over No. 21 Oregon.
The Tigers led nearly the entire game with a complete team effort, as five different players scored in double figures. Aside from a scoring skid to close the first half and open the second half, coach Cuonzo Martin’s squad always had someone willing to step up.
With the experienced and healthy roster that he cultivated, Martin takes pride in the team’s growth in his fourth year at the helm.
“Some guys came in with character flaws here and you got to clean all that,” Martin said. “There's so much stuff that goes on behind the scenes that you try to help with. It consumes you physically and emotionally, but it's your job as a coach and as a staff to make sure they do the right things to be successful; and then you start to see some of the results of it.”
Senior guard Mark Smith built on his last performance, where he scored 18 against Oral Roberts. Spurred by an early scoring flurry, Smith poured in 13 first half points and took 3-pointers in rhythm as the Tigers snatched the lead with two big first half runs.
Senior forward Jeremiah Tilmon presented himself as a force to be reckoned with throughout the first half. Matched up with sophomore big man and former five-star recruit N’Faly Dante, Tilmon provided smart and fundamentally sound post play at both ends of the floor. His 11 points and nine rebounds were impressive, but his dirty work on box outs and screens made just as much of an impact.
“What we call it is that ‘invisible money,’ and Jeremiah gets a lot of that when he sets screens,” said Martin. "He does all those things that might not show up on the stat sheet, but it makes a lot of that happen because he's so big and physically he's done a great job from the time he got him.”
The Tigers built a 17-point lead in the first 16 minutes, but allowed Oregon to close the gap further after the break. Missouri missed 15 consecutive field goal attempts over a seven and a half minute span which allowed the Ducks to cut the lead down to five.
Oregon forward Eugene Omoruyi played in his first game after transferring from Rutgers and turned in an auspicious Ducks debut. The Canadian redshirt senior earned a double-double with 31 points and 11 rebounds, shot over 50% from the field and played a pivotal role in narrowing the margin.
But when Smith and Tilmon failed to carry momentum into the second half, Xavier Pinson and Javon Pickett stepped up. The junior guards combined for 30 of the team’s 41 second half points by consistently breaking Oregon’s press defense.
“They were telling us we were gonna get our shots and just be patient,” Pickett said. “Once the press was broken, we were able to get to the basket, get those layups and just get those shots around the basket.”
Pinson and Pickett always had a solution for Oregon’s offensive firepower in the second half. Whenever Omoruyi or senior guard Chris Duarte made a momentum-shifting play, the Tigers always came up with an answer.
“They kept punching back later in the game and even in the beginning, but we didn't get on our heels,” Pinson said. “We didn't look around at each other. We all just stayed 10 toes down and I feel like we just kept punching and kept punching as much as we could.”
Improved ball security proved to be key to the victory after they gave up 17 turnovers to Oral Roberts. Missouri cleaned up its turnover issues in a major way against Oregon with only seven giveaways on the night, good for the second lowest mark in Martin’s tenure at Missouri.
The program has one of its most experienced rosters since that 2011-12 team lost in Omaha all those years ago. Martin composed a team that plays his brand of tough, principled basketball, and the results favored the Tigers in their first two games.
While there are still more than 20 games left on the schedule, early season wins against ranked opponents are confidence boosters in the locker room and prepare the Tigers for battles against other ranked opponents down the line.
“As long as we follow our principles and believe in one another and believe in a coach, we can go as far as Coach takes us,” said Pinson.
Edited by Kyle Pinnell | email@example.com