Missouri’s first lead was 57-56. They won 57-56.
They can thank Earnest Ross, who turned a forgettable senior night into a memorable one. After not scoring in the first 38 minutes, 54 seconds, Ross scored the final seven points for Missouri, now 21-9 (9-8 SEC).
It was Ross’s two free throws with 7.3 left that gave Missouri its first lead, it was his deflection on an inbounds pass five seconds later the Mizzou basket that sealed the deal for the Tigers, who’s slim NCAA Tournament chances stayed alive with the win over visiting Texas A&M (17-13, 8-9) Wednesday.
Frank Haith showed a lot of confidence in Ross by calling a play for him with Mizzou down 54-50. Ross was fouled on the drive. He missed the first FT, and at the time was 0-6 from the field (0-4 from 3) and 0-3 from the FT line. He made the second to cut it to 54-51. He then got a steal with :52 left and was fouled, went to the line and hit both, bringing Missouri within 54-53. After a timeout, Jamal Jones drilled a jumper to put the Aggies back up three with 25.2 left. Ross made his only field goal again nine seconds later and Jones threw away the inbounds pass, but Jabari Brown turned it over and Missouri had to foul. Jones missed the front end on the other side and Ross was fouled on the rebound (a very beneficial call) and he sunk both FT’s with 7.3 left and Missouri had its only lead of the night. Two reviews in the final 2.2 seconds completed an officiating clown show, but despite being hosed on a call that replays showed was clearly out on A&M and not on Clarkson, Missouri survived.
Ross helped Mizzou overcame a woeful first half, in which they tied a season-low for offensive futility in a half (20 points). Ironically, Missouri won the first one too (2/19 vs. Vandy). Missouri shot just 26.9 percent in the first half and went into the locker room down 10, 30-20, with more turnovers (9) and offensive rebounds (8) than field goals (7). I used many words to describe it on Twitter – comical, laughable, horrendous, atrocious, God Awful – and all of them together don’t quite sum up how bad the half was. The fans were restless and quiet the whole half, but, had you seen the game, you would understand why.
Missouri made just 2 of their first 11 shots – both made by Jabari Brown, who led all scorers with 20 points – and 4 of their first 16 before ending the half just 7-26. At one point from media timeout to media timeout, Missouri did not attempt ONE SHOT.
Missouri used a 7-0 run to pull within 20-17 with 4:57 remaining in the first half, but the Aggies scored 10 of the final 13 points of the half and took the 10-point lead into the locker room. However, Missouri made six of their first 10 second-half shots and needed less than 10 minutes to score more points (21) than they did in all of the first half. They inched within one-point, 43-42 with 9:16 remaining after a 12-2 run and again was within 1, 54-53 with :52 left after two Ross FT’s. Both times, Missouri had the ball with a chance to take the lead and turned it over both times, resulting with easy A&M buckets on the other end. The first time, Missouri responded with missing their next four shots.
Senior Night Festivities:
More after the jump.
- Jabari Brown: 38 Min, 20 Pts (5-12 FG, 1-4 3PT, 9-11 FT), 4 Reb, 1 Stl, 6 TO, 1 PF
- Jordan Clarkson: 38 Min, 14 Pts (5-13 FG, 0-2 3PT, 4-4 FT), 3 Reb (2 Off), 1 Ast, 3 TO, 1 PF
- Earnest Ross: 30 Min, 7 Pts (1-7 FG, 0-4 3PT, 5-8 FT), 5 Reb (1 Off), 2 Stl
- Johnathan Williams III: 28 Min, 7 Pts (3-7 FG, 1-2 FT), 8 Reb (4 Off), 5 Blk, 3 PF
- Torren Jones: 13 Min, 5 Pts (1-1 FG, 3-3 FT), 4 Reb (2 Off), 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 TO, 2 PF
- Ryan Rosburg: 16 Min, 2 Pts (2-2 FT), 2 Reb (1 Off), 3 TO, 2 PF
- Wes Clark: 18 Min, 0 Pts (0-3 FG, 0-1 3PT), 4 Reb (1 Off), 3 Ast, 3 TO, 1 PF
- Tony Criswell: 10 Min, 2 Pts (1-3 FG), 2 Reb (2 Off), 1 TO, 2 PF
- Keanau Post: 9 Min, 0 Pts (0-1 FG), 2 Reb (1 Off), 1 PF
- Missouri with the same starting lineup for the 30th straight game.
- aTm with four assists on their first four makes. Meanwhile, Missouri had just one assist the entire first half. The Aggies finished the first half with 10 assists…Missouri had five for the game.
- Ross/Brown/Clarkson went 18-23 from the free throw line Wednesday, and now have made 440 made FT’s this season…their opponents have made 484.
- Mizzou season average for home attendance: 9,402. Lowest since 2007-08 season (8,060). It also marked the first time in Mizzou Arena’s existence that there was not one single sellout in a given season.
- A&M has now topped its road scoring average with 54 points. It was 52.6.
- J3 has 196 boards this year, just behind the freshman-season totals of 197 from Doug Smith & 199 by Steve Stipanovich. Not bad company. At one point early in the second half before the first media timeout, he had as many offensive rebounds (4) as A&M did.
- When Missouri was 4-16 from the floor, Brown, who is just one game away from becoming the first Tiger since Doug Smith to score 10 or more points in every game, was 3-5 and everyone else was 1-11. Brown has score at least 20 points in 12 of the last 15 games.
- Missouri made just four shots in their first 19 possessions.
- It looked like Brown and Williams III were the only players who gave a damn in the first half. J3, went into the crowd a couple times hustling for loose balls and ended a 5-minute scoreless streak with a blocked shot, an offensive rebounds and old-fashioned 3-point play on the other end to cut the Mizzou deficit to 20-13.
- Keanau Post did not get a lot of PT after his career-high 14-point, 7-rebound game on Saturday, but he did not do much when he was in there, reverting back to his old ways of getting dunks blocked from much smaller players and missing chip-shots. Also, if I had a dollar everytime he tried to tip a rebound instead of grabbing it like a normal person, I’d be rich. Same goes for Rosburg and to a lesser extent, J3. Mizzou would have a good volleyball team.
- Missouri had a huge rebounding advantage – (offensive) – but failed, what seemed to be 1,000 times, to corral other potential boards.
- Antwan Spence, who had made just 11 3’s all season, hit two in the first half, including one with 23.2 left to open up to the 30-20 lead. A&M was 5-13 from 3 in the first half, but 0-5 in the second half.
- Brown turned it over three times each half. Not the greatest game for him. But, he still had 11 of the 20 first half points on 4-7 shooting while the other two members of the Big Three, Ross and Jordan Clarkson, scored a combined two points on 1-10 shooting and everyone else 1-9. The trio, who is the nation’s second highest scoring trio in the nation and accounts for 70% of the team’s offense, still managed to score 41 of the 57 (72%). Brown, Clarkson combined for one assist and nine turnovers. Ouch.
- Clarkson played much better in the second half, and so did the rest of the team. The team goes as the Big Three goes, so it is no wonder they struggled so much in the second half and go going as Clarkson joined Brown in the scoring. Texas A&M’s zone defense played a huge role in slowing down Missouri in the first half, as the Tiger guards weren’t able to get into the paint and create. Clarkson scored 12 in the second half and has been in double figures in 29 of the 30 games this year.
- Torren Jones checked in at the 16:54 mark of the second half, which seemed very odd. After the game Haith stated that Jones was suspended for the half. I find out later that Jones is very emotional and gets into it with coaches in practice. That makes sense. It may help explain why Jones is still not starting over Ryan Rosburg when the last 7-8 games is the evidence that he should. Haith also said after the game that he “trust” Rosburg and he is always going to “do what we ask of him.” Seems like coach speak for both that Rosburg is a more coachable player and maybe a jab at Jones for being the opposite. Also, Rosburg always seems to be where he is supposed to be, but it still doesn’t mean he will make a play, whereas Jones may be out of position, but will still use his athleticism to make up for it. It was at this 16:54 mark that Missouri, who was down 11, started to turn it around – feeding off Jones’ emotion. On his first possession in the game he doubled the team’s assist total. In the next three minutes, he scored five points and added four rebounds – three more points and two more rebounds than Rosburg had the ENTIRE game. Jones’ last two games: 30 minutes, 13 points (5-5 FG, 3-3 FT), three offensive rebounds, two blocks, two steals. He’s never going to be a big-time scorer, but if he can lend this team 20 minutes of dunks, blocks, steals, and offensive rebounds next year, my optimism level is quite a bit higher than it was a month ago, even if his overall defending ability still needs a while to come around.
- Williams also stepped it up in the second half. He was 1-5 in the first half, but was 2-2 in the second half and finished with a team-high 8 rebounds.
- Wes Clark also provided a spark in the second half in the midst of Missouri’s 12-2 run that pulled them within 1, with back-to-back fastbreak assists.
- Missouri made just 16 FG’s, but 24 FT’s.
- One game after doubling their season average with a season-high 19 assists, the Tigers had a season-low five.
- Brown, Williams, and Jones: 8-for-16 on 2-pointers. The rest of the team: 7-for-20 on 2-pointers. That’s not even a great 3-point percentage.
Final Thoughts: As was said in the Vandy win two weeks earlier, when you don’t have it, you still have to find a way to win. Missouri did that. It wasn’t pretty. They probably got lucky, but they got the job done. They shot 34% (16-47), they made just 1 of 11 3’s (9%) and had five assists and 17 turnovers…and won. Mizzou got nine turnovers and 6-for-19 shooting from Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown and didn’t get a single point from Earnest Ross in the first 38:54…and won. They did it by outscoring the Aggies 24-7 at the FT line and with a +15 rebounding advantage.
It was ugly. It was about as ugly as a team could play and still win. But, aren’t we used to that with this team now? That twice and three home games Missouri played awful in the first half and still won…and the third time in four games they played awful offense in the first half. Simply put, Missouri absolutely had to win. Somehow they did. You don’t get extra wins for blowing teams out. At this point, winning and losing is all that matters. The time for style points is over, and surviving is all that matters; Mizzou SUCKED and won. Somehow.
Now, Missouri will head to Tennessee in what experts are dubbing an “elimination game.” I expect Missouri to be eliminated.
P.S. For those complaining that this team isn’t showing enough heart and togetherness, I think last night proved that wrong. This team has infinite problems, but it wants to be good, and it took a whole lot of want to figure out how to come back from 11 down while playing horrible basketball. So there’s that.