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Columbia Missourian

Missouri defeats Davidson 85-77 to advance in NIT

By Joseph Trezza
March 18, 2014 | 11:25 p.m. CDT
The Missouri Tigers defeated the Davidson College Wildcats 85-77 in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament on Tuesday night at Mizzou Arena.

COLUMBIA – Everything about Missouri's opening-round National Invitation Tournament was depleted, except for the Tigers' effort.

The roster was slim, down to just seven scholarship players after the suspensions of Wes Clark, Shane Rector and Tony Criswell.

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The stakes were low, with Missouri having been passed over for the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.

And the arena was practically empty, with by far the smallest crowd for any game this season.

But that crowd was enthusiastic for just 2,403 fans being in attendance — only slightly above the 2,099 in attendance for October's Black and Gold scrimmage.

Missouri fought back from a 13-point second-half deficit to defeat Davidson 85-77 and advance to the second round of the NIT. 

Missouri now waits to play the winner of the opening-round matchup between No. 3 Southern Mississippi and No. 6 Toledo, scheduled for Wednesday in Hattiesburg, Miss.

As per NIT rules, the higher seeded team is expected to host games through the quarterfinals, unless it declines. Mizzou Arena is scheduled to host local high school playoff games from Thursday through Saturday, pushing the Tigers' second-round matchup to Sunday.

Missouri associate athletics director Chad Moeller confirmed that the game will be played Sunday. The time has yet to be determined.

"This was a heck of a win for us," Missouri coach Frank Haith said. "Everyone who played contributed."

Jabari Brown led all scorers with 30 points. Earnest Ross scored 16, and Jordan Clarkson chipped in with 15, including a 3-pointer with 7 minutes, 18 seconds to play that brought the Tigers within one point. 

The Tigers took their final lead on two Brown free throws with 4:55 to play, then extended the lead with layups from Brown and Ryan Rosburg. 

Even with the short bench, Missouri got 18 points from its three reserves: Rosburg, Torren Jones and Danny Feldmann. 

"There weren't many of them," Haith said with a chuckle. "But it's really good to get production out of all those guys."

As for Rector and Clark, Haith couldn't say whether they would be available for Missouri's second-round game.

"We're still in the process of gathering information," Haith said. 

Missouri and Davidson traded baskets for the entire first half, with Chris Czerapowicz's buzzer-beating 3-pointer giving the Wildcats a 41-37 lead at intermission. Davidson led by as many as seven in the opening half after a De'Mon Brooks jumper put the Wildcats up 29-22.  

Brooks finished the game with a team-high 29 points.

Little-used reserve Feldmann, needed because of the suspensions of Clark and Rector, scored his first two points of the season to get Missouri within one at 38-37 in the first half's final minute. 

Davidson scored the first five points of the second half to take a nine-point lead, but Brown stopped the bleeding with a basket. 

Jake Belford followed Brown's bucket with a unguarded drive up the floor and through the lane, hitting a layup as he was fouled. His free throw completed a 3-point play. Tyler Kalinoski followed the next possession with a 3-pointer to put Davidson up 13.

The Tigers' approached their comeback by breaking it up into intervals.

"We tried to just win each four minutes," Ross said. "That kind of inspired us and gave us the fire to play hard."

Ross' play was particularly inspired down the stretch, as the senior scored 10 of his points in the second half and dove over the scorer's table to save a loose ball in the final minute. 

"I just happened to go over the table," Ross said.

The Tigers' effort was there Tuesday even when some of the players and fans were not.

Supervising editor is Erik Hall.