COLUMBIA - One of the biggest days in Mizzou Athletics history today started off on the wrong foot.
But Mizzou basketball was determined to right the ship as they walked into Mizzou Arena for the annual Braggin' Rights game.
The Tigers beat Illinois 63-56 in last years contest in St. Louis. They came into this years matchup with Braggin' Rights for the last two years.
The game started fast. Each team traded blows in the early minutes, but Mizzou jumped out to an early lead.
Kobe Brown had 9 points and contributed well for the Tigers. Xavier Pinson added 12 points. Mark Smith had 11 in the first half as well.
However, the story of the game quickly turned to foul trouble with both teams. The Tigers had 14 personal fouls compared to the Illini 12.
The major difference between the two? Making free-throws. Mizzou was a perfect 16-16 from the line but the Illini struggled, only going 9-17.
Mizzou went into the break with an eight-point lead, 49-41.
It looked like the Tigers were going to pull away, getting out to a game-high 13 point lead with a Mark Smith three-pointer.
However, we all knew that the sixth-ranked Fighting Illini wouldn't go away easy. Illinois slowly chipped away at the lead, ultimately getting within a point of the Tigers after back-to-back dunks by Kofi Cockburn.
Mizzou had no answers for Junior Illini guard Ayo Dosunmu, who put up 36 points on the day and became a big part of why Illinois had a chance.
“Ayo [Dosunmo] is as good as any guard I’ve seen in a long time attacking downhill. I mean he’s just a talented player,” said head coach Cuonzo Martin."
But the Tigers once again prevailed at the free-throw line, converting 10-15 free throws, including two big go-ahead points by Mitchell Smith to give the Tigers the lead, 78-76.
Illinois had a chance with 10 seconds left but Dosunmu put up a ill-advised three-pointer with six seconds left that rattled off the rim and the Tigers pulled off the upset.
The Tigers now have two wins over ranked teams (Illinois and Oregon), a true road win at Wichita State, and a 5-0 record. The Tigers will likely be ranked in the AP Top 25 poll next week, an honor Coach Martin said he does not care about this early in the season.
“It doesn’t matter to me. I think it might to our fans and I think it matters to an extent to our players just from the standpoint that they’re recognized for their work," Coach Martin said. "Because if we’re not ranked than it’s all foolishness anyway so what’s the point of having it?"