Missouri overcomes first-half foul troubles to win third straight

The Tigers had six players in double figures and scored 57 points in the second half after an ugly start against lowly Oral Roberts.
Missouri point guard Jordan Geist flexes his biceps after scoring a layup and drawing a foul off a steal in an 80-64 win over Oral Roberts on Friday, Dec. 7 2018 at Mizzou Arena. The layup accounted for two of five points in just four seconds for Geist.

Jordan Geist grabbed a defensive rebound, ran it coast-to-coast and flew out of bounds after finishing a tricky reverse layup. He wasn’t done.

Geist jumped back in and snatched the inbound, twisting to face the basket and draw contact for an and-one layup – over his shoulder this time. He just stood there after his buzzer-beating 3-pointer last week, so this time he did a bit more and flexed for Mizzou Arena. Geist had scored 5 Missouri points, stretching a 5-point lead to nine 9 with only four seconds going off the clock.

“I was just trying to bring some energy to get us going,” Geist said. “I thought in the first half I kind of played a little dead and didn’t bring much energy, and that’s my role on the team, so I have to do that more often.”

Missouri (6-3) would coast the rest of the way after an ugly first half, with outside shooting propelling the Tigers towards their third straight victory, an 80-64 win over Oral Roberts (3-9) Friday night.

After Missouri allowed only 4 points in the game’s first 8:52, Oral Roberts hung around after first-half foul trouble decimated the Missouri frontcourt.

Sophomore Jeremiah Tilmon had been strapped to the bench after picking up a technical foul and his second personal foul in a scuffle after the under-12 timeout, sending Reed Nikko onto the court.

But Nikko didn’t last long. He came into the game with one foul but was sent back to the bench after four total whistles in three minutes. Then Mitchell Smith, Missouri’s last big man left in the rotation, came on and picked up his third foul with 5:49 to go in the first half, giving Missouri its 12th foul in a little over 14 minutes.

The foul trouble thrust Kevin Puryear into the center position and put transfer K.J. Santos into the post for his opening game. The two played down the stretch and Oral Roberts crawled within 1 with 4:19 left in the opening half.

“It threw us off; we couldn’t really get into a rhythm of the game because they were in the bonus halfway through [the first half]” Puryear said. “I think we did a good job of weathering the storm and finishing off the first half.”

Missouri got some offense from two Mark Smith 3s and a triple by Torrence Watson, giving MU a 33-27 lead at the break.

A second half with Tilmon back on the floor allowed Missouri to dump it down into the post and run its motion offense, which the Tigers used to finally run away.

“When you throw it in there, they have to either all collapse and we get an open 3 or [Tilmon] goes one-on-one,” Geist said. “I’ll take a one-on-one with him any day.”

Missouri was able to take advantage of the space outside and shot 12-for-26 from 3-point range with Watson leading the way with a 4-for-4 performance behind the arc. Watson has 12 points in each of his last two games after scoring 19 in the season’s first seven games combined.

“He was a top-50 recruit, so he’s capable of doing that night in and night out,” Puryear said. “He’s a hard-working individual and he’s deserving of everything that’s coming his way.”

Missouri hit four 3s on a 25-6 run that stretched a 9-point lead to 28 with 3:42 left, ending with Watson’s fourth triple of the night with 5:41 to go. The Tigers breathed easy down the stretch after a tense first half. Missouri would stay in control before clearing bench with a little under two minutes to go.

Mark Smith led six Tigers in double figures with 14 points, also adding five rebounds. It was another hot shooting night for Smith, who went 3-of-6 from outside and is shooting 48 percent from 3 this season.

Freshman Xavier Pinson added some energy off the bench for the Tigers, scoring 11 points and dishing out a season-high four assists without a turnover. Pinson now has only give-away in his last three games after a four-turnover performance in Missouri’s loss to Temple on November 27.

Martin said freshman Christian Guess wasn’t available and wasn’t on the bench because he dropped a class this week, which put him under the number of credit hours required. He is ineligible for the rest of the semester.

Guess signed with the team on Sept. 15 as a late addition to this year’s recruiting class, after the semester had begun.

“He is not doing a poor job in the classroom, I want to be clear about that,” Martin said.

Missouri has over a week off before it plays Xavier at Mizzou Arena, Dec. 18 at 6 p.m.

Edited by Bennett Durando | bdurando@themaneater.com

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