Missouri men's basketball overcame a 13-point deficit late in the second half to beat SMU 80-75 in overtime in a semifinal of the Jacksonville Classic on Sunday night in Jacksonville, Florida. Kobe Brown led MU with 24 points.

"Great team win. A real gritty, tough game," MU coach Cuonzo Martin said.

In a game that featured a lot of highs and lows for Missouri, the strong comeback showed the potential the Tigers have this season.

"Going from here, now that we know we can fight and come back against a team like that, we can fight against anyone," Brown said.

In the two games before playing Missouri, SMU got out to double-digit leads before its opponent even scored. Martin had other plans, and the Tigers ruined the Mustangs' chance of making it three in a row.

SMU didn't record its first field goal until the 13:20 mark in the first half, starting the game shooting 0 for 9. 

As a matter of fact, the combination of good Missouri defense and bad shot selection kept the Mustangs, a team that averages 80.5 points, to 2-of-18 shooting to start the game. But while the defensive side looked good for the Tigers, another lackluster performance on offense kept the Mustangs within striking distance.

"We knew they would be tough, but we got off to a great start," Martin said. "I thought offensively we settled."

The largest first-half lead Missouri enjoyed was 18-11 with just under six minutes remaining. SMU finally found its footing offensively late in the half, which allowed them to head into halftime on an 18-0 run. MU failed to score in the final seven minutes of the half.

"They got out into transition and made plays," Martin said. "We didn't do the things we needed to do to be successful."

For the third straight game, Martin and his team trailed at the half. The Tigers needed a strong showing in the second half. And that's what they got, for the most part.

"I think our guys finally settled in, and once they saw the shots beginning to fall, it changed things," Martin said. "But when those shots aren't falling, we still have to find a way to win the game."

Coming out of the half, Missouri returned to play staunch defense against the Mustangs. However, in what is starting to become a dangerous habit for the Tigers this season, the offense hindered any chance of a comeback early in the second half.

Until 11 minutes left in the game, MU only had two players with more than one made field goal in Brown and Jarron Coleman. 

However, it was transfer Ronnie DeGray III who finally jump-started the MU offense. DeGray made three straight baskets, including two 3-pointers, to cut SMU's lead to 54-50 with 4:51 left in regulation. DeGray finished with 18 points on 5-of-6 shooting and a perfect 6-for-6 from the charity line.

"He's a selfless guy that's all about winning," Martin said if DeGray. "He brings it to the table, and he's a calming presence in situations because he knows what is going on."

After DeGray had his baskets, fellow transfer DaJuan Gordon decided it was his turn to get in on the fun. Late in the second half, Gordon went 5-of-6 to bring the Tigers back, which included an and-1 layup to tie the game with 29 seconds left in regulation. In just his third game for MU, Gordon had 14 points.

"In the second half, I got comfortable and tried to make things work," Gordon said. 

SMU went scoreless for the last 2:14 of the second half.

The momentum, which was firmly in Missouri's hands by then, carried over into the extra period. A Brown 3-pointer and a series of defensive stops helped the Tigers to a healthy six-point lead. Nonetheless, SMU's star player, Kendric Davis, hit two 3s of his own to draw the Mustangs back within three with five seconds left, but it was too little too late. Davis led all scorers with 29 points.

Compared to the first-half shooting percentage of 21.2, Missouri shot a combined 53% in the second half and overtime, including making six of the 11 three-point attempts.

"Once Ron (DeGray) and Kobe made the (3-point shots), it changed how they had to guard us," Martin said of the late offensive surge.

Amari Davis finished with 14 points for Missouri.

  • Sports beat writer for the 2021-22 academic school year, majoring in Print & Digital News. You can reach me at mattbrolley5@gmail.com, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

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