With 30 seconds remaining in regulation, Missouri led No. 21 Xavier 51-48. But Missouri left career 28% 3-point shooter Naji Marshall slightly too much space at the top of the key and the forward made them pay, draining a clutch triple to tie the game at 51.
After an awful first half, the Tigers put themselves in position where an untimely 3 from an unlikely source could cost them: Missouri fell just short on the road, losing to Xavier 63-58 in overtime. Marshall led Xavier (3-0) with 17 points and eight rebounds, while Jason Carter added 12 points and 11 boards.
Marshall’s 3 didn’t send the game to overtime, however; the Tigers still had a shot to win it. Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin drew up an out-of-bounds play for sharpshooter Mark Smith to get a corner 3. But the junior, who scored nine points on 18% shooting, continued his cold shooting night, missing the off-balance shot on Missouri’s final possession.
Missouri (2-1) couldn’t pull the game out in overtime, shooting just 25% in the period and committing two back-breaking turnovers, as well as an offensive interference from Tilmon.
On the same night his former team, Evansville, upset No. 1 Kentucky at Rupp Arena, Dru Smith led Missouri in three offensive categories, scoring a team-high 22 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and adding four assists for his first career double-double.
He was the only Tiger to reach double figures, though fellow point guard Xavier Pinson flashed as well, scoring 9 points and punishing Xavier defenders off the bounce during critical late-game possessions.
With the Tigers up two with six minutes remaining, Dru Smith had the sequence of the night. The junior drained a 3 from Steph Curry range and then took a big charge on the next defensive possession to complete the highlight.
However, Smith, like the rest of his Tiger teammates, struggled with efficiency and turnovers, shooting 37.5% from the field on 16 attempts and committing 4 turnovers.
As a team, Missouri shot 33% from the field and committed 20 turnovers — not exactly a winning formula. The Tigers also struggled in transition, as Xavier outscored them 10-0 on fastbreaks.
That Missouri was in the game at all was a testament to how well it played in the second half, considering how poorly the game’s first 20 minutes went.
It’s safe to say Missouri started slow on offense: The Tigers committed 13 turnovers, shot 26% from the field and 1-of-9 from 3 in the opening half. Xavier wasn’t much better, shooting 32% from the field in the period, which helped Missouri keep the game close.
After setting his career high with 23 points against Xavier last season, expectations for Jeremiah Tilmon were sky high entering the game.
On the Tigers’ first possession, the junior center made a jump shot to give the Tigers an early lead. If you’ve been following Missouri basketball the last two seasons, you know what happened next: Tilmon picked up two quick fouls and was promptly subbed out, finishing the half with just three minutes played.
“Obviously we got off to a great start,” Xavier coach Travis Steele said. “We were able to get Jeremiah Tilmon in foul trouble early and were able to take advantage of that.”
His team struggled in his absence — at one point going over six minutes without a basket — and if not for 7-1 run to end the half, the game would have been much further out of reach than a 21-28 halftime deficit.
Tilmon scored six points and had four rebounds in just 23 minutes, the majority of which came in the second half and overtime.
However, it was clear just how important Tilmon is to the Tigers and that his foul trouble remains a big concern. Despite talking all offseason about his strides playing defense without fouling, Tilmon again found himself in foul trouble during Missouri’s first real test.
Martin’s teams are known for their defense and early on, it appears this Missouri team is no exception. Xavier’s 16th ranked offense was held to 32% shooting from the field and 14% from behind the arc for the game. Martin’sThe defense was the key to the second-half comeback. Missouri held Xavier scoreless for a 7-minute, 18-second stretch during the second half, outscoring the Musketeers 14-2 during that time.