Double OT Win Keeps MU Basketball NCAA Tournament Hopes Alive
ATLANTA - Missouri keeps its NCAA tournament hopes alive as it beat Texas A&M 91-83 in Double Overtime Thursday. The Tigers were led by Jabari Brown. He finished the game with 26 points off of 14 of 18 on free-throw shooting. Missouri hopes to keep its streak of NCAA tournament appearances alive. They've been to five consecutive tournaments, which leads the SEC.
The Tigers appeared to regain their passion, especially Jabari Brown after his lackluster performance at Tennessee. Despite fouling out in the first overtime, he played a pivotal role in forcing the game into overtime with clutch final second free-throws at the end of regulation.
Jabari said about the game, "It was a tough game. Everybody's fighting for their lives. We didn't think they were just going to roll over."
Frank Haith said, "It was a heck of a win. We obviously made some mistakes but we showed a lot of character finding a way to win."
Earnest Ross stole the show in the first half. He had 17 points. Ross couldn't find his shot again in the second half. He had just four more points. He redeemed himself in the second overtime, hitting three crucial free throws. He finished the game 9 of 10 on free throws.
Missouri was helped by freshman forwards Johnathan Williams, III and Torren Jones. The pair helped contribute to Missouri's 19-11 rebounding advantage over Texas A&M in the first half. In the end, Missouri out rebounded Texas A&M 48-28.
Williams, III finished with 15 rebounds, including eight offensive rebounds. Those rebounds helped the Tigers to 30 second chance points. Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy praised him after the game saying, "J3 had a heck of a game, killed us on the glass."
Three point shots dominated the shot selection in the first half. Half the shots taken by both teams were threes. Missouri was 5 for 13, and A&M was 5 for 12, on three point shots in the first. As the game continued, three point shots slowed down and were not falling. Missouri finished the game shooting 2 for 10 on three-pointers.
Free throw shooting gave the Tigers a big boost in the first half. despite only shooting 60 percent from the line (9-15), they limited Texas A&M to just one made free throw in the first half. Free throws became a major deciding factor in determining the final outcome of the game. Missouri shot a total of 53 free throws and made 40 of them.
Texas A&M's two leading scorers in the game were both not 100 percent. Alex Caruso played with two fingers taped together and Jamal Jones was hospitalized with an illness earlier in the week.
Caruso seemed to not be bothered by his finger. He was the Aggies top performer and filled up the stat sheet. He had the game high 28 points as well as eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals. But with these great stats came one glaring flaw. He finished with seven turnovers including two in overtime.
Jamal Jones played an effective game despite being ill. He had the second most points for A&M, finishing the game with 20 points.
Missouri had the lead late until Texas A&M took the lead with 2:40 left in the game. Jabari Brown then hit two clutch free throws to tie the game 68-68 with :44 left. Then Missouri had the chance to win in regulation with 14 seconds remaining, but the ball was fumbled away on pass from Jordan Clarkson to Johnathan Williams, III.
Jordan Clarkson started the first overtime hot, scoring the first four points. Texas A&M sneaked back into the game. Then Jabari Brown made four important points before fouling out of the game with :46 remaining. On fouling out, Brown said, "It was a helpless feeling. I had confidence in my teammates to know we'd pull it out."
With Missouri up 77-75 with 11 seconds remaining, Clarkson had a pass to Wes Clark intercepted by Blake McDonald who then passed to Alex Caruso who tied the game up 77-77. Clarkson ran down the court and has a last second lay-up blocked.
With just a minute in the second overtime Missouri up 79-77, Jordan Clarkson fouled out. The rest of the game Missouri relied on Earnest Ross as well as three freshmen, Johnathan Williams, III, Wes Clark and Shane Rector. All four players hit free throws down the stretch putting the game out of reach for the Tigers as they won 91-83.
On the young guys coming in coach Frank Haith said, "You've got to look at those guys and be proud for them coming in, not hanging their heads and getting a team win."
Ross added, "I was trying to just win and be a senior. To be a senior you have to lead and I needed to for the younger guys."
Missouri has a challenge with major NCAA tournament complications facing the number one team in the country Florida, Friday at 12 p.m.
On facing top ranked Florida, Jabari Brown said, "It's a good opportunity. They're the number one team and had a good season. But it's a new season now."