Missouri men's basketball upsets No. 11 Auburn

Standout performances from Xavier Pinson and Dru Smith led the hosts to a 85-73 victory.
Missouri guard Xavier Pinson dunks the ball in an upset victory over No. 11 Auburn. Pinson scored 28 points in Missouri's 85-73 win.

It was only fitting that a game as bizarre as what occurred on Saturday night ended with Missouri victorious over a ranked opponent, its first such win in over two years.

In a game between two teams called the Tigers that featured 56 fouls, two technicals and a play that was initially called a foul on one team before replay review changed it to a flagrant and ejection on the other, Missouri (12-13, 4-8 SEC) came out triumphant in an emotional 85-73 rock fight over No. 11 Auburn (22-3, 9-3 SEC).

“I said all the time, ‘You never know when you’ll get your next win,’” coach Cuonzo Martin said. “So you applaud and appreciate it. You get back to work the next day. They earned the right to win.”

The bulk of Missouri’s offensive production in the first half came from two sources with vastly different styles. A combination of Dru Smith’s slow, steady and intelligent offensive game combined with Xavier Pinson’s furious manic energy for 33 points in the first half and 56 in the game, many coming in the halfcourt for Smith and on fast breaks for Pinson.

“We have a complete understanding of each other,” Pinson said. “I know what he’s like, and he knows what I’m like … We don’t fight on the court. We’ve got a good relationship off the court, so I feel like it’s showing on the court.”

Unlike so many games earlier in the year, Missouri stayed patient on the offensive end. The home team attempted just 13 3-pointers, instead attacking the basket and scoring many of its points in the paint.

“You gotta be able to get downhill, make plays because they put so much pressure up top” Martin said. “You have to drive the ball. They don’t really allow you to go east-west.”

Just as impressive as Missouri’s offense was its defense, holding one of the best teams in the nation to 73 points. The perimeter defense, led by Smith and Javon Pickett, held Auburn to a 1-17 shooting performance from beyond the arc.

“I thought we did a good job just kind of giving them different looks,” Martin said. “Our guys did a great job carrying out the assignments from the sideline to the floor, even after timeouts, because [Auburn’s] guards are so talented. They’re really good one-on-one players, so your help pockets have to be ready.”

Things started to waver for Missouri in the second half. Auburn began to match Missouri’s offensive aggressiveness, attacking the rim, leading to some baskets and even more fouls. Missouri committed five in the first five minutes of the half, angering the season-high 12,506 fans in Mizzou Arena to the point that the referees briefly stopped the game to keep fans from throwing objects onto the court, but that was just a precursor to the madness to come.

“We get frustrated all the time,” forward Kobe Brown said. “We just have to keep our head and stay focused on the task at hand.”

With 10 minutes left in the game, Auburn’s Samir Doughty missed a 3-pointer from the wing. As Kobe Brown went up for the rebound, Devan Cambridge yanked Pickett to the ground. A foul was called on Pickett, sending an already agitated crowd into a near-catatonic rage. After a lengthy trip to the replay monitor, the officials determined that a flagrant foul should have been on Cambridge, leading to his ejection.

The reversal led to three free throws for Missouri — it made two of them — followed by a 3-pointer from Torrence Watson for a potentially 7-point swing.

“That was a big swing for us,” Pickett said. “We were up anyways, but that just added momentum.”

The win is Missouri’s first over a ranked team this year and serves as a potential turning point in what’s been an up-and-down season.

Tonight, we went out here and competed the whole game,” Pickett said. “That’s what we made sure we did. Made sure we competed for the whole 40 minutes. Made sure we closed out the game. That’s gonna be even more momentum for us in our upcoming games.”

Edited by Eli Hoff | ehoff@themaneater.com

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