No. 11 Kentucky holds off Missouri’s rally

Brown’s 33 points couldn’t save the Tigers from their fourth conference loss.

Sophomore forward Ryan Rosburg (#44) watches a ball float out of bounds after losing control of it during the first half of Saturday, Feb. 1's game at Mizzou Arena. The Tigers were defeated by the Wildcats 84-79.

Following the game, Jabari Brown wasn’t thinking about his posterizing dunk or the four-point play he completed. Instead, what weighed on the junior guard’s mind was Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison’s reverse layup, which the Tigers had allowed when they needed a crucial stop.

“I think I played pretty well, but that last play, I didn’t get a stop, they scored a bucket,” Brown said. “That’s tough. It's kind of killing me right now.”

Harrison’s layup pushed Kentucky’s lead to five points with 19 seconds to play, effectively sealing the game for the No. 11 Wildcats (16-5, 6-2 Southeastern Conference). They held off Missouri’s (16-5, 4-4 SEC) late push and Brown’s career game to win 84-79 Saturday afternoon at Mizzou Arena.

“I went baseline, so if you go baseline, you really either have to hit the man in the corner or you have to score, so I just tried to finish,” Harrison said.

He finished with 21 points, his highest output of SEC play by five points.

Harrison’s heroics wouldn’t have been needed had Brown not had a career night. The junior guard scored a career-high 33 points, the highest point total of any Tiger since Thomas Gardner scored 40 against Kansas in 2006.

Brown and junior guard Jordan Clarkson scored 26 of Missouri’s final 29 points of the game.

Brown also provided two momentum-boosting plays for Missouri. Down by five with seven minutes to play, he drove the lane and dunked on Kentucky’s star freshman Julius Randle.

Then, as the Tigers trailed by seven with 90 seconds to play, Brown took an inbounds pass and launched a 3-pointer up from NBA range. The ball swished through the hoop and the officials called Kentucky guard James Young for a foul. Brown completed the rare four-point play and made it a one-possession game.

But while Brown and Clarkson lit it up, Missouri’s big men took a step back after recent improvement. Freshman forward Johnathan Williams III picked up two fouls early in the game, which forced him to sit out most of the first half. Combined, Missouri’s forwards scored just three points.

Their problems translated to the defensive end of the floor as well. Kentucky’s starting forwards and center accounted for 40 of UK’s 84 points.

Randle worked out of the post, forcing Williams into foul trouble. He scored 19 points, grabbed nine rebounds (five of them offensive) and picked up three assists as well.

“Just quick moves,” Randle said about the key to his success. “Coach got me in the high post and I was able to attack from there.”

Randle said holding off Missouri’s comeback proved especially important, considering the game’s location. The home loss stands as only Missouri’s third in the Frank Haith era.

“It’s a tough environment to play in,” Randle said of Mizzou Arena.

Kentucky shot 3-pointers sparingly, but made them at a high percentage. The Wildcats shot just 32 percent from the field, but netted eight of 14 from deep range, including four of five in the second half.

Missouri continues a difficult stretch of games this week. The Tigers will play at No. 3 Florida on Tuesday and at Mississippi on Saturday.

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