In a game that was supposed to be a breeze for Missouri, the Tigers were sweating.
After Oral Roberts' standout forward Emmanuel Nzekwesi easily put in a layup, the Tigers found themselves leading by only two points, 40-38, with 14 minutes, 12 seconds remaining in the game.
The Tigers were in a dogfight at home against a team that came into the game ranked No. 302 in the nation, according to KenPom.
Or so it seemed.
When Jordan Geist found Torrence Watson in the corner for a 3-pointer, which the freshman sank to put the Tigers up by five, it felt like a big shot. But it turned out to be even more than that. It marked the start of a monumental run which seemed to last about as long as the snap of a finger.
When it was over, the Tigers and Golden Eagles (3-9) were firmly into extended garbage time. With 7:50 left in the contest, Missouri had busted the game wide open, opening up a 22-point lead, which was their largest at that point in the affair.
Powered by a dominant second-half run that barely lasted more than five minutes, Missouri (6-3) outlasted Oral Roberts, 80-64, Friday at Mizzou Arena.
While it was Geist's assist that sparked the run, it was his next act that doused it in lighter fluid.
On Missouri's next offensive possession, Geist charged down the court like a locomotive full of steam. Nothing was going to stop him, especially not a Golden Eagles' defender.
Geist's sprint culminated in a layup, but the senior wasn't finished. He snatched Oral Roberts' inbounds pass and headed back to the basket. While absorbing a hard foul from the Golden Eagles' Kaelen Malone, Geist kissed the ball off the glass for an and-one opportunity.
When Geist made his free throw, he had completed a pivotal five-point sequence. Mizzou Arena, which lacked energy for much of the night with Missouri embroiled in a defensive struggle, came alive for the first time.
"I think those two plays really jacked us up," Kevin Puryear said. "If you saw the bench, we were all super hype, especially when (Geist) got the and-one. That was really just a energy play, and coach talks about those all the time."
Asked where that play ranks among his all-time energy plays, the usually mild-mannered Geist couldn't stop himself from cracking a smile.
"When you steal one and get an and-one, that's up there," Geist said.
All of a sudden, 34 seconds after being in a one-possession game, the Tigers had a 10-point lead. Missouri needed its leader, and Geist had answered the bell.
"I feel like I'm the leader of this team, and being the leader, you gotta have confidence so other people have confidence," Geist said.
The crowd was into it, and the Tigers had all the momentum, so they weren't done.
A minute later, Oral Roberts' Aidan Saunders nailed a trey to cut the Tigers' lead back down to nine. Missouri found itself at a critical juncture at this point in the game. Would the Tigers allow the Golden Eagles back in it, or would they press on and put the game away? Much to the delight of the 9,813 people in attendance, MU went with the latter.
While it was Geist who kindled the run, many Tigers kept it going.
First Jeremiah Tilmon, dealing with foul trouble throughout the night, scored on a pretty post move. After two free throws from Geist, Puryear attacked the paint and made a layup.
Then, came the barrage. All of a sudden, it started raining inside Mizzou Arena — raining 3-pointers, that is.
The Southeastern Conference's top 3-point shooting team, Missouri went to its bread and butter. Javon Pickett made a trey for his only points of the evening. Then came one from fellow freshman Xavier Pinson, followed up by a 3 from SEC 3-point percentage leader Mark Smith.
"We had a lot of 'one more' shots — where one guy could've took the shot, but it was a better shot after the next pass," Watson said. "Definitely, those 'one more' shots got us in the groove."
By the end of a 22-5 run, the only thing in question was at what point the walk-ons would enter the game. With Missouri holding a 65-43 lead, the result was no longer draped in doubt, but careening with certitude. When Evan Yerkes, Brooks Ford and Adam Wolf took the court for their season debuts minutes later, it marked an easy victory.
The Tigers weren't sweating anymore.
Supervising editor is Theo DeRosa.