It looked done and dusted. It seemed like another loss for Missouri men's basketball. Southern Methodist led by double digits for most of the second half. The Tigers shot just 37.7% from the field on the night.

Judging on those figures, it wasn't a game Missouri should have won. But even so, the Tigers' 80-75 overtime victory over the Mustangs was one few would have expected to turn into a shootout after the first half.

Missouri now faces Florida State in the Jacksonville Classic championship game at 7:30 p.m. Monday.

"Every game will present something differently for our guys until we become who we are," Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said. "I know what I'd like for us to be and the identity for us to have. They have to grow into that ."

SMU led by 11 at halftime, with Missouri shooting 7 for 33 from the field and finishing the opening interval with no points in the last seven minutes and the Mustangs on a 20-2 run.

Then, the comeback ensued. Missouri battled back after being down by as many as 13 points with 12 minutes remaining in the second half.

The Tigers were led by Kobe Brown's 24 points, seven rebounds and two assists. But when he got into foul trouble late in the game, the Tigers needed someone else to take the reins against the Mustangs.

"I just tried to get my team over the hump," Brown said. "We were in a drought. I wasn't really just trying to put up shots or anything. My teammates did a really good job ... getting me the ball."

From there, Amari Davis, DaJuan Gordon and Ronnie DeGray III stepped up.

"I think what they're learning more than anything is the value of defending every possession down and what that means as team to give ourselves a chance to win," Martin said. ... "All we need is one possession at a time."

Davis opened the scoring on the first possession of the game with a corner 3 but didn't score again until the second half. The transfer from Green Bay took over from there, finishing with 14 points, including two big free throws to give Missouri a six-point lead in overtime.

"Amari's (an) aggressive downhill driver," Martin said. ... "We need him to be assertive, focus on the task at hand, getting to the rim, getting to the free-throw line, because he has that ability."

DeGray was equally as big for the Tigers in the comeback. One of the more underrated bench performers in the country so far this season, the transfer from UMass finished with a huge 18 points and six rebounds, including the bucket and foul that put the game out of SMU's reach in overtime.

He went back into the game late in the second half when Brown got into foul trouble.

"He's been really valuable, big-time help," Brown said. "He crashed the boards hard. ... Gets a lot of second-chance points. He's a big help. He does all the tough stuff."

Gordon landed several key shots down the stretch to help MU force overtime and ultimately get the win. After missing the opening game through suspension, Martin said Gordon was excited to play and that he settled in and performed well Sunday. Gordon transferred from Kansas State.

"These are new guys. I haven't played with them yet, really," Gordon said. "Just me getting comfortable playing with them."

But the defense was likely Missouri's biggest asset in the unforeseen comeback. The big first-half run SMU went on wasn't because of spectacular offense on the Mustangs' side but more so because of the Tigers' dire offense.

But the half-court defense Martin set out got the job done for the most part. The Mustangs only had two players with double-digit scoring figures — Kendric Davis with 29 and Marcus Weathers with 13.

"We're a good defensive team, and I feel like that right there can lead to a lot of wins," guard Jarron Coleman said. "Just getting the offense together is what the main goal is."

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

Recommended for you