The Maneater

Missouri wins over Division II Emporia State in a game too close for comfort

Jeremiah Tilmon and Kevin Puryear led the Tigers with 13 points each.

Maneater File Photo

They say a win’s a win, and on Monday night, nothing could be more true for Missouri men’s basketball.

Missouri carried over its horrific shooting performance from Thursday’s road game at Utah into Monday’s contest against Division II foe Emporia State but was narrowly able to take down the Hornets 67-62 in Columbia.

The Tigers shot 40 percent from the field but could not hit consistently from beyond the arc or at the charity stripe. The team put up an abysmal 2 for 20 (10 percent) clip from the 3-point line and shot 19 for 34 (56 percent) from the free-throw line. Missouri also turned the ball over 17 times.

Head coach Cuonzo Martin said after the game that his team was willed to victory by Missouri’s fans.

“The only thing that saved us was we were playing at home,” Martin said.

Junior forward Kevin Puryear, who tied with freshman big man Jeremiah Tilmon to lead the team in points with 13, said Missouri’s recent shooting woes don’t worry him.

“We have a bunch of good shooters on the perimeter, so I’m not too concerned,” Puryear said.

Missouri came out especially flat in the first half, shooting 1 for 13 from the 3-point line and turning the ball over 10 times. The team shot 1 for 13 from three and turned the ball over 10 times in the first half against Utah as well but trailed by 16 going into the break against the Utes. Against the Hornets, Missouri managed to keep the game tied at 28 going into halftime.

While the whole team shot the ball poorly, no one had a worse night than point guard Kassius Robertson. The graduate transfer finished with six points in 34 minutes but shot 0 for 9 from the field, including 0 for 6 from 3-point range. His plus/minus rating was zero, while freshman point guard Blake Harris, who’s been coming off the bench for the Tigers, finished with a plus/minus of plus-16 in just 22 minutes of play.

One bright spot for Missouri was the play of the team’s young big men. Tilmon was finally able to avoid foul trouble and shot 6 for 7 from the field with over 19 minutes of play, while sophomore Reed Nikko continued his stretch of strong play with eight points in just 10 minutes on the floor. Additionally, freshman Jontay Porter recorded his first career double-double, scoring 11 points and pulling down 11 rebounds.

Puryear said Missouri’s big men were the key to its victory.

“If we didn't have the interior play we had tonight, we lose this game by 8-10 points,” Puryear said.

Puryear said he was especially happy for Porter, who turned 18 last week and continues to impress in his first season with the Tigers.

“He’s grown tremendously,” Puryear said. “As far as maturity level, he’s very mature for his age. I kind of forget he’s 18 years old. He’s just such a great kid.”

Next up for Missouri is the Advocare Invitational. The Tigers will play three games in four days in Orlando, Florida, starting Thursday at 10:30 a.m. CT against Long Beach State.

Until then, Puryear said the Tigers will reflect on a game that almost got away from them.

“We can’t put anything past anybody, and we definitely learned our lesson tonight, for sure,” Puryear said.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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