Missouri grabs nail-biter win over Arkansas

In a game that came down to the final 10.5 seconds, forward Jeremiah Tilmon scored 21 points and helped Missouri to its highest-scoring half of the season.
Missouri forward Jeremiah Tilmon sticks his tongue out mid-dunk in the first half of MU's 79-78 win over Arkansas on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo.

With 17.8 seconds to go, Missouri led its Battle Line rival, Arkansas, by 3 points. A triple was all the Razorbacks needed to tie up the score. Instead, they went for a dunk from senior forward Daniel Gafford and cut their deficit to one.

On the following inbound play, MU guard Xavier Pinson was called for an offensive foul, giving the ball back to Arkansas with 10.5 left. After a timeout, the ball was in play and the clock was winding.

Somehow, when the final buzzer sounded, the ball was in sophomore forward Jeremiah Tilmon’s hands and the Tigers’ lead was still intact.

In another down-to-the-wire game, Missouri (12-11, 3-8 SEC) held on to secure a 79-78 win against Arkansas (14-10, 5-6 SEC) on Tuesday night. The win marked the Tigers’ third consecutive home victory against the Razorbacks.

“It feels good to win it. Period,” Tilmon said. “I mean, we was up the whole game and then, like normal, second half comes and something happens and they always come back, but this time we held the lead and that’s all I can say. We won, but we gotta continue to build off taking care of the ball at the end of the game.”

Tilmon scored 21 points in the victory, just one bucket shy of his season-high 23 points, which he set on Dec. 18, 2018 against Xavier. The sophomore forward leads the team in field goal percentage, shooting 56.3 percent. He ranks No. 4 in the SEC in that category.

“It just flowed better for Jeremiah tonight,” coach Cuonzo Martin said.

Missouri’s 46 first half points marked its largest point total for a first half all season. It beat out a previous record of 45 points in the first half of the Morehead State game on Dec. 29, which the Tigers went on to win, 75-61. Tilmon and senior Jordan Geist led the Tigers in Tuesday’s first half with 12 points apiece. Geist finished the game with 18 points, five rebounds and two assists.

Perhaps most beneficial to Missouri’s first half performance was its lack of turnovers. The Tigers only had four turnovers and gave up 8 points off them. A total of 12 offensive rebounds kept the ball in Missouri’s hands as well.

The Tigers finished the game with 11 turnovers, the same number they recorded in the first half of their 72-60 loss against the Razorbacks on Jan. 23.

“When we take care of the ball, we’re a different team,” coach Martin said.

Pinson and senior Kevin Puryear were the two biggest contributors to Missouri on the boards. Pinson ended the game one rebound shy of a double-double, with nine rebounds and 11 points. Puryear finished with eight rebounds and 8 points.

Redshirt junior Ronnie Suggs had a couple crucial plays for the Tiger offense in the second half, including a corner 3 that kept Missouri ahead of Arkansas with just over five minutes left in the game.

“If I’m open, I’ve got to make that,” Suggs said of the shot.

While Arkansas picked up its offense in the second half, it struggled immensely at the game’s start. Gafford scored his team’s first 10 points, and it didn’t score from beyond the arc until freshman Isaiah Joe hit a 3 around the eight minute mark. Arkansas went 1-for-11 from 3-point range in the first half and shot 25.0 percent from 3 the entire game.

“I thought the first half probably ended up being the difference in the game,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “I thought the second half we came with a lot more energy, a lot more sense of urgency, playing with a purpose. And then it came down to making plays.”

Missouri travels to Oxford, Mississippi this Saturday to take on the Ole Miss Rebels (16-7, 6-4) for the first time this season. Tipoff is set for 2:30 p.m. CST.

Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com

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