Missouri forward Kobe Brown rises through the Northern Illinois defense

Missouri forward Kobe Brown rises through the Northern Illinois defense on his way to the basket Thursday at Mizzou Arena in Columbia. Missouri won 54-37.

It wasn’t exactly one for the ages. But maybe it didn’t need to be.

Sure, Missouri’s 54-37 win over Northern Illinois wasn’t anything to write home about. It likely didn’t fill Tigers fans with much confidence for the remainder of the season. But coach Cuonzo Martin and his staff just needed a win after the disastrous 80-66 loss to Kansas City on Monday to keep the wheels from falling off — even if it did cause some tired eyes along the way.

“I’m hopeful Monday was a valuable lesson,” Martin said. “Though painful, hopefully it brings a lot of value, and I thought our guys did a great job.”

After trailing 31-28, Missouri went on a 26-6 run in the final 10:49 to seal the win.

“You gotta have heart at the end of the day (to) stop the man in front of you,” point guard Jarron Coleman said. “We know what we gotta do, and we did it tonight.

“We gotta do it every night.”

The Tigers were led by Jordan Wilmore’s best performance in a Missouri uniform on both sides of the court. The 7-foot-3 center had a career night, finishing with six rebounds, three blocks and a career-high 11 points — including four dunks, one of which set the tone as the first points of the game.

“I just gotta keep working, keep pushing,” Wilmore said. “Definitely the offseason, I was focusing on losing weight. So, just gotta keep working on that and keep working on my game.”

Kobe Brown had a double-double for the Tigers, finishing with a game-high 13 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. He scored or assisted on 11 of Missouri’s 20 field goals.

“He’s one of those guys that can change a game,” Martin said. “Very unselfish — probably need him to be a little more selfish and at attacking the rim.

“If he can grasp what it means to be 6-8, 240-50 pounds — maybe 60 — and just making plays at the rim — it’s tough to guard.”

Outside those two, it wasn’t a performance to really shift any sort of momentum. The Tigers shot a measly 40.8% from the field and just 14.3% from behind the arc.

“Everybody wants to shoot, and that’s OK,” Martin said. “But who’s gonna do that dirty work to get in the lane and get his nose dirty to get somebody else the shot? And that’s what it comes down to.”

The best part of the night for Missouri was on the defensive end. The Tigers allowed a season-low in points and finished with 32 defensive rebounds, nine blocks and six steals. Northern Illinois shot just 24.1% from the field and 19% from the 3-point line.

The Huskies’ top scorers —Keshawn Williams and Trendon Hankerson — shot a combined 4-27 for just 15 points.

“It’s definitely a great win after a tough L,” Coleman said. “I feel like we played great on defense. It was a big step up for us in the right direction.”

After winning this on-campus game that’s part of the Jacksonville Classic, the Tigers now travel to Jacksonville, Florida, for bracket play in the Classic against SMU. The Mustangs are 3-1 heading to Florida.

Martin said he’ll celebrate the win tonight but will also watch a lot of film ahead of his team’s first road test.

“It’s just one game at a time,” Martin said. “SMU is a very talented team. ... Coach (Tim) Jankovich has done a tremendous job for years.”

  • Missouri soccer and men's basketball beat writer, Fall 2021. Reach me at anthony.kristensen17@gmail.com, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

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