The Maneater

Missouri stunned in final minutes, falls to No. 23 West Virginia in Advocare Invitational championship

The Mountaineers closed the game out on a 23-6 run to steal one from the Tigers.

Courtesy of Cal Athletics Cal Athletics

With 4:59 remaining in the second half, it was a wrap.

Jontay Porter had just calmly sunk a free throw to extend Missouri’s lead to 73-60, and the Sagaba Konate technical foul that sent Porter to the line appeared to mark West Virginia’s official unraveling. The Tigers seemed to have it in the bag.

Then all hell broke loose.

Suddenly, Missouri was powerless against the Mountaineer press it had handled so well all night. Nothing would fall for the Tigers, and everything that left West Virginia guard Jevon Carter’s hand’s went through the basket. Missouri committed five turnovers in the final five minutes Sunday night as the Mountaineers erased a 13-point deficit with a 23-6 run to take the championship game of the Advocare Invitational 83-79.

It was a result that would have been hard to predict with the Tigers up 13 with five minutes to play. It had, in fact, been an encouraging showing for Missouri, with the Tigers continuing their string of impressive performances into the championship game in Orlando, this time against a top-25 opponent.

Missouri remained hot from behind the 3-point line in the championship game, particularly in the first half when the Tigers shot 57 percent from deep. Graduate transfer Kassius Robertson went 3 for 5 from 3 on the night, while Jordan Barnett contributed three 3-pointers of his own as part of his team-leading 21 points.

Barnett led the Tigers in scoring for a second consecutive game, shooting 44 percent from the field to go with 11 rebounds for a double-double.

The pre-collapse story of the night for the Tigers had been the play of freshman big man Jontay Porter, who once again shined. Despite Sunday being his least impactful statistical performance in Orlando, Porter put on his strongest performance yet. Finishing with 9 points and nine boards, Porter owned the floor, making one intelligent play on the court after another before he fouled out with 1:28 remaining. Even with just two assists, Porter’s passing was the most impressive aspect of his game, highlighted by his assists on consecutive Kevin Puryear 3-pointers that ended a brief Missouri scoring drought in the second half.

But in the end, the true story was Missouri’s inability to close out the game. After the 5:55 mark, the Tigers did not hit another field goal for the remainder of the game, scoring exclusively on free throws the remainder of the way outside of a Puryear layup with eight seconds left. The drought was brought on by Bob Huggins’ famous press defense which came alive in the closing minutes, harassing Missouri’s guards in full-court defense.

Unfazed by the press for most of the night, the Tigers’ guards could not handle the pressure brought on by the Mountaineer defense in the final minutes. Junior guard Jordan Geist, who had four turnovers on the evening, especially struggled late, turning the ball over and missing a key free throw. The Tigers finished with 20 turnovers as a team.

As the Tigers faltered late, Carter caught fire. After dancing around foul trouble all night, Carter dropped 13 points in the final 6:12 of the game to catapult the Mountaineers ahead. His three steals during that stretch were key in deflating Missouri’s momentum and swung the game for West Virginia.

Missouri will look to redeem itself on the floor again in Orlando on Thursday night, taking on Tacko Fall and the UCF Golden Knights on ESPN2. Tip off is set for 8 p.m. CT.

Edited by Joe Noser |

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