Missouri season ends with 81-71 loss to Auburn

Jordan Geist had a game-high 25 points in his final game for Missouri.
Guard Jordan Geist, right, sits with forward Kevin Puryear and watches a hype video ahead of lineup introductions for the Missouri vs. Ole Miss men's basketball game on Saturday, March 9 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Missouri went down, but Jordan Geist wouldn’t let them go quietly.

The senior poured in a game-high 25 points in his final college game, but it wasn’t enough for Missouri (15-17, 5-13), whose season ended with a 81-71 loss to No. 5 seed Auburn (23-9, 11-7) in the second round of the SEC Tournament on Thursday.

“He did a great job leading us,” freshman guard Torrence Watson said. “He did his best to lead us to the win. Unfortunately we came up short, but we definitely saw he fought as hard as he could.”

Missouri was outplayed by Auburn in nearly every facet of the game, but 3-point shooting was MU’s saving grace.

Auburn was able to move the ball around and generate open looks, but the SEC leaders in 3-pointers made only 3-of-17 from deep in the first half while Missouri’s 8-of-16 performance from 3 kept the No. 12 seed Tigers within striking distance, down 32-30 at the half.

A Xavier Pinson triple gave Missouri a 33-32 lead with 18:25 left, but then the point guard picked up three fouls in 25 seconds and went to the bench while Auburn surged ahead with an 8-2 run.

Sophomore center Jeremiah Tilmon had a rough first three halves in Nashville – he shot 1-of-7 from the field last night and had zero points in the first half today – but he was a different player out of the locker room and finished with 8 points, five rebounds and two steals to give Missouri an inside presence in the second half.

A rejuvenated Tilmon brought Missouri within 3 with 16:21 to go. Then a trio of triples from Auburn guard Bryce Brown quieted the Missouri comeback and MU’s season looked to be left for dead, down 10 with 14:44 left.

Geist and Missouri continued to take Auburn’s runs and fight back, however, and Geist led Missouri on a 12-2 run. He hit a triple and then got a steal in the Auburn backcourt before hitting another 3 and pulling Missouri within two with 13:13 left.

Geist then found Watson for a triple to tie the game at 52 with 11:22 to go.

“Every time we get punched, we have to punch back,” Geist said. “That’s what we’ve been growing toward this whole year.”

Brown and Auburn were again ready for Missouri’s counterpunch, and went on a quick 9-0 run, with another Brown triple being the final dagger. It put Auburn up 61-52 with 8:16 to go.

Watson, who had a bounce-back game with 20 points after only 4 against Georgia, was able to hit timely triples and keep Missouri around. However, coach Cuonzo Martin’s Tigers stayed just outside striking distance before Jared Harper iced the game with free throws for Auburn.

Watson has come out of his shell the last couple months, scoring in double figures in five of his last six games

“Torrence on the surface was talented enough to be here,” Martin said. “Torrence has the will to be a great basketball player, to be the best shooting guard in the conference.”

The game was much different than the 92-58 drubbing Auburn handed Missouri earlier this season and Watson, who went 3-for-12 from the field in the regular season matchup, was a big reason why. He’s just one of several young players who have shown flashes in the second-half of conference play.

The season for Missouri looks to be over, with Martin saying Missouri will not accept a CBI invite. Missouri’s chances at the NIT or NCAA Tournament are virtually zero with a sub-.500 record.

Missouri now looks to next season where it returns Watson, Tilmon and Pinson as well as a healthy Mark Smith and a healthy Javon Pickett, who Martin said has been dealing with a back injury for the last month. Martin’s team also adds transfer guard Dru Smith for a season that should be promising.

“I think if we're healthy, with what we have returning, guys you are bringing into your program, we’ve got a chance to be as good as anybody,” Martin said.

Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com

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