Heading into Tuesday night’s game against No. 3 Florida, Missouri players realized they’d be facing their toughest opponent and biggest opportunity to boost its NCAA Tournament resume of the season.
The Gators had numerous threats offensively. They ranked sixth nationally in points against at 57.4 per game and had surrendered 42.6 points per game during the team’s last three games. They hadn’t lost inside the O’Connell Center yet this season.
For 31 minutes of action inside that building Tuesday night, it appeared Missouri might pull the upset, but in the end, the Gators were just better and defeated the Tigers 68-58.
The loss was the second consecutive for Missouri (16-6, 4-5 SEC).
After combining for 61 of the Tigers’ 79 points against Kentucky, the duo of junior guards Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson accounted for just 12 of the team’s 28 first-half points.
Missouri frontcourt players combined for just three total points in last Saturday’s loss to then-No. 11 Kentucky, but sophomore center Ryan Rosburg scored the team’s first four points of the game. With starting power forward Johnathan Williams III relegated to the bench with foul trouble, forwards Tony Criswell and Torren Jones contributed off the bench, combining for six points and four rebounds in the first half.
In discussing Brown’s recent hot streak Monday afternoon, Missouri coach Frank Haith hoped not to jinx his star junior guard; but for the first 19:59 of the first half against Florida Tuesday night, it looked like he did just that. The Southeastern Conference’s leading scorer’s lone points came via a layup, until he hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer from well behind the three-point line to end the first half, giving Missouri a 28-25 lead at halftime.
By the time this final buzzer sounded, Brown led Missouri with 15 points. Clarkson was the only other Tiger to reach double figures, scoring 14 points. Guard Scottie Wilbekin led all scorers with 19 points for Florida.
Missouri attempted just 12 free throws, making eight. Florida, meanwhile, made 24 of its 33 attempts from the free throw line.
The Tigers next play at Ole Miss on Saturday afternoon.