Tilmon powers Missouri past Incarnate Word in 82-42 opening night win

Tilmon had 16 points and seven rebounds in the blowout win.
Junior Jeremiah Tilmon reacts to a call during Missouri's exhibition game on Nov. 1. Photo by Andrew Moore

After Missouri’s exhibition win over Division II Central Missouri last week, coach Cuonzo Martin talked about how the team needed to do a better job of getting center Jeremiah Tilmon the ball after the junior’s quiet night on offense.

In Wednesday’s regular season opener, Missouri fed Tilmon, and he took advantage.

Often receiving the ball in the post, Tilmon put up 16 points and seven rebounds in Missouri’s (1-0, 0-0 SEC) 82-42 win over Incarnate Word (0-1, 0-0 Southland Conference).

“I was just feeling confident,” Tilmon said. “I was just letting everything flow. I was just out there having fun. The main thing was my legs was feeling good, so as long as my legs feeling good, I’m good.”

Just as importantly, Tilmon started the game and stayed on the court. Fouling has plagued Tilmon his entire career at Missouri, and while he picked up four fouls in 20 minutes, he spread them throughout the game enough to play consistently.

“Usually if I get my first foul or second foul, I get to looking up at [the scoreboard],” he said. “But now, I was just out there hooping. I was just playing … I wasn’t really worried about no fouls. I was just, like I said, having fun, had a smile on my face.”

Coming off the bench, sophomore point guard Xavier Pinson chipped in 15 points and five assists, including a no-look dime to freshman Tray Jackson in the first half. Two possessions later, Pinson set up a Tilmon slam to punctuate a 10-0 Missouri run, one that put the Tigers up by double digits for the remainder of the game after a quiet start.

“Tray did a good job of spreading the floor, and I just kind of waited and waited on them, and it was there,” Pinson said. “I threw it and he finished it.”

Meanwhile, on the other end of the court, Incarnate Word struggled to do much of anything against a stingy Missouri defense, shooting 27% and turning the ball over 21 times. The Cardinals’ guards struggled against the perimeter defense of Pinson, Javon Pickett and Dru Smith.

“Just pressuring,” Pinson said. “Turn them a couple times in the full court and just staying locked in and sitting down and locking somebody up.”

Running the offense from closer to the basket wasn’t any easier with only one player taller than 6-foot-7. Missouri blocked eight shots, five courtesy of 6-foot-10 Tilmon.

“His ability — we’ve talked about it for so long — to jump straight up, be physical, hands high, it’s hard for guys to get the shot off,” Martin said. “I thought he did a great job with that. What happened, being a presence around the rim. I think it helps on defense.”

Making his collegiate debut, Kobe Brown was the only freshman in the starting lineup. He scored 9 points on 3-7 shooting, including 2-5 from 3-point range.

“Those exhibition games and the closed games really helped with that, so I came in pretty confident,” he said.

Seeing his first action since his season abruptly ended in February last year with an ankle injury, junior Mark Smith struggled offensively, missing all four shots he attempted and committing two turnovers.

“I didn’t think he was great with the ball,” Martin said. “Physically, he’s there. Shot didn’t fall, but when he’s open, it has to fly.” Missouri’s next game is Friday night against Northern Kentucky.

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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