Free throws can sometimes be seen as a trivial part of basketball. Turns out, they add up.
Missouri hit 34-of-38 free throws, including its first 23 of the game, to give it a narrow 86-85 win over Arkansas Thursday night at Mizzou Arena.
Early in the game, it became clear that Missouri’s 3-pointers weren’t falling and that the referees were calling a tight game.
“We’re a good 3-point shooting team, but we also can drive the ball, and I think that’s something we preach,” coach Frank Haith said. “When we have games we don’t get to the free throw line, that’s quite unusual. I think we have a team that can get to the line and attack off the bounce. That’s who we are and that’s how we play.”
The 50 combined fouls totaled the most in regulation of any conference game Missouri has played this season.
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson called the fouls disruptive.
“We have to be aggressive against a team like that,” junior guard Jabari Brown said. “They play real scrappy and they foul a lot, so we knew we had to be strong with the ball.”
Junior guard Jordan Clarkson said Arkansas’ pressure forced him to drive, causing him to draw fouls. He finished 11-of-13 from the line and had nine attempts in the second half, but missed two, totaling half of Missouri’s misses.
“I just have to focus and make the free throws,” Clarkson said. “I just missed them, came up a little short. Just have to make those free throws down the stretch.
Brown shot just 5-of-15 from the field, including 1-of-6 from 3-point range. He still finished with 25 points due to 14-of-15 free throw shooting.
“He got to the free throw line, that’s unheard of,” Anderson said of Brown’s multitude of attempts. “To his credit, he made them.”
Missouri holds the highest free throw percentage in conference play, hitting 73 percent of its shots from the line.
“We had the right guys going to the line tonight,” Haith said. “Those guys are all shooting pretty good from the line. You know, Ryan made two free throws, he’s been working hard at getting better from the free throw line, so we work at that, and I think we’re one of the better free throw shooting teams in the league, and we have to keep that going.”