Laurence Bowers returned to early season form and Phil Pressey dished 10 assists and hit the go-ahead bucket as Missouri (19-7, 8-5 Southeastern Conference) erased a 13-point second-half deficit to upset No. 5 Florida (21-4, 11-2 SEC) in dramatic fashion at Mizzou Arena Tuesday, 63-60.
Bowers notched his fifth double-double and first since returning from a mid-season MCL sprain, adding a game-high 10 rebounds to 17 points, to lead the Tigers past the Gators, who just a month earlier, won a 30-point beat down in Gainesville, Fla.
Missouri is 82-4 at Mizzou Arena since 2008 and 5-2 against top 10 teams in that span.
“We needed this win,” Bowers said. “It was the next game on our schedule and we really believed from the get-go that we could win this game.”
After Scottie Wilbekin split two free throws to put the Gators up 13 with just under 11 minutes to play, the Tigers launched a 12-0 run spurred by a deep three from sophomore guard Jabari Brown. Junior guard Earnest Ross connected on a straightaway three and hit two free throws. Senior guard Keion Bell finished a Pressey steal with a two-handed layup on the break and Bowers dunked his 12th points on a gorgeous feed from Pressey.
But Florida rebuilt the lead to five after two Mike Rosario jumpers and seesawed to four after Kenny Boynton completed a three-point-play after being fouled on a runner by Pressey.
Brown’s triple with 3:10 to play cut the UF lead to one and kick-started a 10-3 MU run to finish the game.
“In the end,” coach Frank Haith said, “we made enough big shots.”
Pressey snagged a long rebound and dashed the length of the court for a layup, plus the foul to give Missouri a 59-57 lead, its first of the game. Wilbekin’s three with the shot clock winding down, gave Florida a one-point advantage, negated by Bowers’ feathery jumper with 1:15 left.
Pressey and UF’s Kenney Boynton exchanged missed threes and Ross snatched an offensive board with 18 seconds left, but fell to the floor, resulting in a traveling violation.
Out of a Gator timeout, Boynton (11 points, four rebounds) tried another triple with seven seconds left that rimmed out and Bell pulled down the rebound with 3.1 seconds and hit two free throws to extend the lead to 63-60.
“No,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said, “we did not want (Boynton’s three) at all. We would have liked to have had some action driven to the basket. Obviously, when you’re down by one, you want to at least try to create some penetration.”
Instead, Florida settled for the senior Boynton’s off-balance three and Bell’s free throws then rushed the ball down court to Rosario who tried a desperation trey from the corner that sailed wide.
The frantic finish was part of the night’s overall trend that saw the Gators pull ahead, but the Tigers scratch back after buckling down on defense. Finally, Missouri’s pressure proved too much for Florida who shot just 40 percent from the charity stripe in the second half, shooting in the bonus with over eight minutes to play.
“I’m not gonna sit there and say we didn’t execute,” Donovan said. “It was one play, but we also did some pretty good things coming down the stretch as well.”
The victory puts the wind back in Missouri’s sails after a two-point loss at Arkansas on Saturday and vastly improves the Tigers’ NCAA tournament resume. MU is one win away from their fifth-straight 20-win season and has nailed down a signature win over a top-ranked team.