That wasn’t supposed to happen.
Two teams vying for any sort of postseason appearance couldn’t afford to shoot 43 percent from the field or allow confused freshman forward Johnathan Williams III to become a 3-point threat.
But it all happened — all of it and more. On the night that No. 1 Syracuse fell at home to lowly Boston College, the oddities that took hold of Missouri’s 67-64 win against Vanderbilt grappled for attention with the two teams themselves.
Missouri guard Jabari Brown scored fewer than 20 points for the second time in his last 11 games.
“I think it was a solar eclipse tonight or something,” said junior guard Jordan Clarkson. Perhaps it came all across the college basketball landscape.
So endured the first half of Missouri’s contest against Vanderbilt (14-11, 6-7 Southeastern Conference) Wednesday night. As the two teams each shot 33 percent in the period and went to the half in a dead heat, 21-20 in the Commodores’ favor.
“I’ve seen us get 21 in a half, that’s not that uncommon,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “But to hold them to 20 was more of a surprise to me.”
That may have been in part because Vandy grinds out offensive possessions and uses the full 35-second shot clock. The Commodores out-rebounded the Tigers (19-7, 7-6 SEC), 35-29, and grabbed 11 offensive boards.
“It wasn’t the prettiest of games,” Mizzou coach Frank Haith said. “I thought we lost some focus out there.”
Finally, 14 minutes into the second half, things began to even out.
Sophomore Ryan Rosburg drew (another) charge. Clarkson pirouetted in the lane and made a layup. Earnest Ross canned a 3 from the wing. Mizzou Arena rose to its feet as Brown dashed down court with a steal and dished to Clarkson.
It was a 13-2 run that preserved all that was right in the world and the Tigers’ NCAA tournament hopes. A loss, at home no less, would have spelled disaster for bubble-bound Missouri. For Vanderbilt, the loss is yet another spike in its hopes for postseason play barring a run in the conference tournament.
“Almost, but not quite,” Stallings said.
Though as it seemed Mizzou was set to pull away, the Commodores steered broadside. A triple from Shelby Moats with 19 seconds left cut Mizzou’s lead to two. It had stood at eight just two minutes prior.
Clarkson hit a pair of free throws and Williams came up with a huge block on Vanderbilt guard Kyle Fuller. He and Rod Odom, Vandy’s biggest scorers, were largely held in check after combining for 46 points earlier this season in Nashville. They scored 16 points total on Wednesday.
“We were going to take Odom away. That was our deal,” Haith said. “Fuller did a good job attacking the paint, but we didn’t want him making shots.”
Fuller’s last look, with a chance to tie the game, was a 70-foot heave as time expired. Even if it had fallen, officials ruled the ball didn’t leave his hands in time. Spookily, it clanked off the back iron.