Playing for the first time in eight days, Missouri never really did shake off the rust, but managed a 66-60 over Western Michigan in front of another dull crowd in a rare Sunday Night game.
The Tigers, now 10-0, hit the court for the first time as a ranked team (No. 24) and since defeating ranked UCLA last Saturday. And, the lay-off showed. Despite shooting 52% in the first half while the Broncos shot 26%, Missouri still needed a 7-0 run to close the half to take a 31-22 lead, thanks mostly to nine turnovers, mostly careless and unforced.
Western Michigan (5-4) made just nine of 34 first half shots, and maintained a woeful shooting night throughout (30%), making two less shots (23-21) than Mizzou despite chucking up 24 more shots (70-46). But somehow, someway, Western Michigan took advantage of a Missouri scoring low – just two points in a seven-minute span – to pull within 47-45 with 10 minutes, 46 seconds remaining in the game and twice had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead before Missouri went on a 9-0 run, again capped off by senior forward Tony Criswell, whose jumper ended the first-half ending 7-0 run. The 56-45 lead was Missouri’s biggest of the night.
Western Michigan clawed back to 58-52 with 4:29 left, but Jordan Clarkson hit a huge 3 to put Mizzou back up nine. The margin was still nine with :58 left when Missouri had a shot-clock violation and got real sloppy…again. A foul and two free throws + an inbounds pass steal, Missouri foul and two more free throws and it was 63-58 with :32 when Jabari Brown hit two free throws.
“When you win ballgames at a high level, you can’t be turning the ball over, trying to get the ball inbounds,” coach Frank Haith said. “And that’s an area where we had some mishaps. But, it is good for us to have those type of games where we have to scrap it out to get it done.”
Brown then hit one of three free throws in the final :24, and Missouri closed out a 66-60 win.
Brown scored a game-high 15 and Clarkson and Earnest Ross both scored 12, as the “Big Three” trio scored 59% of the team’s points and has scored no less than 53% of the team’s total in a game this season. For Clarkson and Brown – both who are averaging just over 19 points per game – they have been in double figures in every game.
With students gone for Christmas Break it was another small crowd (7, 252). Small crowd + little student attendance = a low energy building. And, the players noticed, too.
“I don’t feel like we needed as much a lift offensively as we did energy,” Criswell said.
I understand it is hard for Missouri to get a decent crowd with St. Louis and KC area fans having lengthy drives on weeknights – especially for a blah non-con game – but a weekend night game? Come on. I’m sure the Chiefs and Rams playing afternoon games instead of at noon, probably didn’t help either. But, it has to get better, and I’m sure it will with conference play in two more home games, because Missouri is a team that is so good at home (80 straight non-con home wins and the nation’s LONGEST home winning streak at 25 games) because it feeds off the energy of the crowd.
Next up for Missouri – one of just 14 remaining unbeaten – the annual “Bragging Rights” game in St. Louis with non-con rival Illinois (9-2) Saturday in what will be just their third game in three weeks. Missouri is looking for its fifth straight win over the Illini.
- Earnest Ross: 24 Min, 12 points, 4-9 FG (2-7 3 PT), 2-2 FT, 7 REB, 1 STL, 1 BLK
- Jordan Clarkson: 34 Min, 12 points, 3-8 FG (1-2 3 PT), 5-6 FT, 3 REB, 5 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK
- Jabari Brown: 38 Min, 15 points, 4-10 FG (2-4 3 PT), 5-9 FT, 3 REB, 1 STL, 1 BLK
- Johnathan Williams III: 29 Min, 2 points, 1-2 FG, 7 REB, 4 BLK
- Ryan Rosburg: 22 Min, 6 points, 3-4 FG, 2 REB, 2 AST
- Tony Criswell: 16 Min, 10 points, 5-8 FG (0-1 3 PT), 4 REB
- Wes Clark: 28 Min, 9 points, 3-5 FG (1-2 3 PT), 2-2 FT, 4 REB, 3 AST
- Keanau Post: 4 Min, 0 points
- Shane Rector: 3 Min, 0 points
- Torren Jones: 2 Min, 0 points
- After playing six games in 17 days, Missouri will conclude the non-con portion of the schedule with five games in five weeks.
- St. Louis native and MAC leading scorer (20.1) David Brown led Western Michigan with 18 points and Shayne Whittington added 6 points and 10 rebounds.
- Western Michigan hit just 2 of 16 3-pointers in the first half.
- Missouri’s defense continued its strong start to the season. The team has yet to allow an opponent to shoot better than 44.3 percent from the field this season, and only Hawaii has topped 71 points.
- It was a rough day for Missouri’s two main point guards with nine turnovers and eight assists. Add in third PG Shane Rector, and this group turned it over 10 times.
- Missouri had just seven of the 10 players that saw action score – and they managed to all score in the first half.
- Rosburg doesn’t put up anything special (5.6 PPG, 4.1 REB), but he is efficient, shooting 73% (22-30) from the field so far this year. The 6-10 starting center averaged just three shot attempts per game.
- Missouri is now ranked in both polls (23 AP, 25 USA Today/Coaches).
- The bar has been set really high on Clarkson if a 12-point, 5-assist game is considered a poor game.
- I have to say it one more time. Missouri made two more shots in 24 less attempts. That is unreal.
- In two runs spanning a total of seven minutes, Missouri outscored Western Michigan 16-0. Over the other 33 minutes, the Broncos outscored the Tigers 60-50. Think about that. But, like always in games that are close at Mizzou Arena, it’s always a run or two that puts the game away. It has become pretty much expected at this point. A staple of the program.
- Ross and Brown combined to shoot a decent-not-great 4-for-11 from 3-point range. But they were well-timed. Three of the four came after WMU had cut Mizzou’s lead to two points.
- Criswell made his first five shots from the field.
- Missouri blocked seven shots – four came from freshman Johnathan Williams III. J3 also had three offensive rebounds (he is a very, very good offensive rebounder and has turned that ability into some follow dunks and easy tip-ins) rebounds in 29 minutes. Rosburg, Criswell, Torren Jones, and Keanau Post: one offensive rebound in 44 minutes. Not good.