It was close, but in the end, No. 21 Xavier made enough plays to stave off the upset-minded Tigers. Mizzou basketball now must wait for another chance to pick up a big victory.
We had a feeling this year’s Mizzou basketball team was going to be improved from last season. That inclination only grows after Tuesday’s night road game against No. 21-ranked Xavier.
The Tigers lost 63-58 in overtime to the No. 21 Musketeers, who looked to be in control in the first half. But a second-half rally, fueled by newcomer Dru Smith, helped the Tigers claw back to take a lead in Cincinnati. Xavier’s Naji Marshall knocked down a 3, one of only three on the night for Xavier, to tie the game with 20 seconds left. And Mizzou couldn’t close out the game in regulation after a failed 3-point attempt from Mark Smith. That gave Xavier another opportunity to win in OT, and the top-25 team did just that.
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Dru Smith led Mizzou with 22 points, going 6 of 16 on the floor. The Tigers, like they did last week, struggled from outside. Mizzou basketball was 6-for-25 from the 3, and Xavier was even worse (3-for-21), but it hit the one that mattered most. The two teams matched up inside well, and solid defense made for a close game throughout.
Xavier took a 28-21 lead into halftime before Mizzou got the offense going, while the defense remained tough all night. The Musketeers led 27-12 before Mizzou began to get back into the game, and the Tigers took a 36-34 lead at the 11-minute mark of the second half with a Dru Smith layup.
Mizzou led the rest of the way until Marshall’s 3 tied it up and sent it into extra minutes.
From there, Xavier knocked down crucial free throws time after time, while Mizzou couldn’t get many shot attempts into the hoop, and Xavier pulled out the five-point win.
The 3-point percentage must get better for Mizzou. The Tigers play a small game, and when those outside shots begin to fall, Mizzou will pick up wins against the top programs. They have several opportunities to do so over the course of the season with their schedule.
Jeremiah Tilmon picked up two quick fouls to begin the game, and he was benched for most of the first half. This continues to be a problem, and if Cuonzo Martin and the coaching staff can get Tilmon to play without so many fouls, Mizzou basketball can cause problems. We’ve known this for years, and it remains true.
For now, it was a missed opportunity, but one the Tigers will take and move on. It was great experience to go on the road in a tough environment and nearly get the win.
Mizzou gets nearly a week of rest before it returns to the court. The Tigers play Wofford next Monday at home.