Kassius Robertson, big men lead the way in Tigers’ 99-55 win over Wagner Seahawks

Robertson had 23 points on 7-10 shooting in the Tigers’ victory.

Jordan Barnett attacks the basket against Iowa State on Nov. 10. Maneater File Photo

There are blowouts, and then there are what transpired at Mizzou Arena on Monday night.

Missouri’s depth and length were simply too much for the Wagner Seahawks, as the Tigers cruised to a 99-55 victory and the team’s second win of the season.

The Tigers were led by their big men throughout the contest, as freshman Jontay Porter and sophomore Reed Nikko combined for 19 points and 16 rebounds and took control of the offense, opening up shots for perimeter shooters. As a team, Missouri outrebounded the Seahawks 38-27 and shot 68 percent from the field.

Senior Jordan Barnett said the young big men’s performances were key to the win, especially considering freshman Jeremiah Tilmon fouled out and played just ten minutes.

“They definitely picked it up,” Barnett said. “We for sure expect that out of both of them, but I thought Jontay [Porter] played exceptionally well, and Reed [Nikko] really came in and changed the game in a way. He was extremely energetic and getting blocks and making plays. I was proud of both of them.”

The game was never close. After winning the opening tip, Wagner turned the ball over on its first possession when Barnett intercepted a pass and turned it into Missouri’s first points on an emphatic two-handed dunk the other way. The Tigers followed up Barnett’s dunk with a 17-3 run to give them a 19-3 lead at the 12:19 mark in first half. Missouri had a lead for all but 16 seconds of the game and led by 33 at halftime.

Porter was especially impressive in the first half. The soon-to-be 18-year-old dominated Wagner’s big men and put up nine points, seven rebounds and four assists in 13 first-half minutes off the bench. He finished with 11 points.

Missouri’s guard play was also excellent on the night. Graduate transfer Kassius Robertson led all scorers with 23 points, including five threes, recovering well from his 3-12 shooting performance against Iowa State on opening night.

Barnett had his second straight double-digit scoring effort, putting up 13 points, including an emphatic second-half one-handed tomahawk dunk that earned the loudest ovation of the night from Mizzou’s faithful and gave the Tigers an 81-34 lead. Juniors Terrence Phillips and Cullen VanLeer also got in on the action, scoring 12 and seven points, respectively.

Robertson said it felt good to shoot better as he transitions to the point guard position.

“It’s nice to come out and do what I’m able to do,” Robertson said. “I’m getting better every game, every practice.”

Head coach Cuonzo Martin said Robertson played at a level he’s come to expect out of his starting point guard and that his first game was an anomaly.

“We just had to find different ways to get him the ball where he can get shots in rhythm because he’s always shot ready,” Martin said. “Anytime he shoots the ball he expects it to go in. I wasn’t worried about him.”

The Tigers’ defensive successes against Iowa State carried over to Monday’s game, as well. Missouri forced 19 turnovers in the game and held Wagner to just 33 percent shooting, as the Tigers limited any kind of interior chances the Seahawks could muster for the majority of the contest. Sophomore Blake Francis and senior JoJo Cooper were the only Wagner players to finish in double digits, registering 17 and 11 points, respectively, on 6 of 14 and 3 of 12 shooting.

After the game, Missouri confirmed that Michael Porter Jr. is listed as day-to-day with a leg injury. Martin also said that he’s unsure if Porter Jr. will travel with the team this week and refused to comment further on the freshman phenom’s status. The team would not say whether Porter Jr. has seen an outside doctor. Additionally, freshman guard Blake Harris, who fell hard on his left knee in the first half of Monday’s contest, was also declared day-to-day.

Martin also announced after the game that freshman guard C.J. Roberts and sophomore forward Mitchell Smith will be redshirting this season.

Next up for Missouri is the team’s first road game of the season against the Utah Utes in Salt Lake City, Utah. Tip off is set for 7 p.m. C.T.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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