The Maneater

Robertson, Porter bail Missouri out on the road against Ole Miss

Robertson had 27 points to lead the Tigers.

Forward Jontay Porter plays during the Showdown for Relief on Oct. 22, 2017.

Missouri needed a moment to breathe.

One look at the goose egg on the scoreboard at the Pavilion in Oxford, Mississippi, told the story of the first five minutes; Ole Miss got out and running to an 11-0 lead that left the Tigers gasping for air and perhaps already doubting the legitimacy of their two-game uprising the previous week.

Not Jontay Porter.

The freshman power forward woke up the lethargic Tigers and led a radical turnaround that kept Missouri afloat en route to a 75-69 road victory over the Rebels on Tuesday night. It was the third straight triumph for an inspired Missouri team (16-8, 6-5 Southeastern Conference) that is surging in the SEC and sits — as things stand — on the inside of the NCAA Tournament bubble looking out.

Graduate transfer Kassius Robertson led the way with 27 points and a 5-for-9 mark from outside, while Porter finished with an 18-point, 13-rebound double-double. Porter also finished with five blocks.

Mizzou battled back from down 11, lost its own 12-point advantage, then scored 7 unanswered points from the foul line in the last two minutes to go up 74-67 and wrap things up. Junior Kevin Puryear’s free throws off an alley-oop attempt gave the Tigers the lead for good. He finished with 12 points and six rebounds.

Robertson scored 18 of his 27 in the second half, including 12 of Mizzou’s 16 points in a critical stretch after falling behind by 4 again with 10:03 to go in the game.

But in the first half, it was Porter’s show. After a scoreless first 4:55 for the Tigers, he went to work, lighting up the Pavilion from the outside and consistently cleaning up in transition to bring Missouri back. A 10-2 burst turned into a 21-6 run and Mizzou’s first lead. Then up 21-20, it was three consecutive triples — one from Porter and two from Robertson — and Mizzou looked in control. The Tigers led by as many as 12 in the half before taking a 40-31 lead into the break.

Ole Miss swung things back around as Missouri was sluggish out of the gates again. The Rebels jumped to a 53-49 lead; then Robertson took over.

He scored Missouri’s next 6 and 9 of its next 11, including another pair of huge 3s down the stretch. The Rebels slipped back into a 65-61 deficit after one of those 3s, then dug out to tie it 67-67 with under two minutes to play, setting up Missouri’s level-headed finish.

The Tigers return home for a rematch with Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. in Mizzou Arena. They lost to the Bulldogs on the road last month but will have a chance to keep building a tournament resume at home with a victory.

Edited by Joe Noser | jnoser@themaneater.com

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