The Missouri Tigers put up 41 points in the first and another 41 points in the second to hand #10 Illinois their first loss, 82-73, on the season. It’s the fourth year in a row that Mizzou has captured braggin’ rights over the Fighting Illini, but there’s still plenty of catching up to do as Illinois holds a 20-12 advantage in the series history.
This year the Tigers earned the victory through rebounding and interior scoring, the two areas that their advantage in size and aggressiveness could be maximized. They won the battle of the boards by 22 (51-29) and outscored the Illini in the paint 44-24. The presence of Jabari Brown in Mizzou’s starting five and Brandon Paul‘s shooting struggles also played large roles in the game’s outcome.
All told it was a rugged, rough, back and forth affair for much of the game with each team punching and counter-punching. It was far from smooth and at times it was hard to watch with plenty of fouls, free throws and stoppages in play. Both teams shot under 40% from the floor and around 25% from three in the game making it anything but a thing of beauty. It was also very clear for anyone watching that these two teams don’t like each other all that much.
Laurence Bowers appears to really be hitting his stride these days. He again led the team in scoring with 23 points on 10-20 shooting and pulled down ten boards for his fourth double-double of the year and second in the last three games. His four assists were a season high. Joining Bowers in the double-double club were two other Tigers. Alex Oriakhi notched his fourth of the year with his 13 point and 14 rebound performance. Despite an awful night shooting the ball, Phil Pressey claimed the other with 12 points, eleven assists and also grabbed seven boards. Also featured heavily in the scoring mix was Jabari Brown who added 7 rebounds to his 18 points. He shot 3-7 from beyond the arc and in doing so providing the perimeter presence Missouri has desperately needed. As a team they made only two of their other twelve three point attempts.
Despite a 5-18 effort, Brandon Paul still finished with 23 points thanks to his 11-14 performance from the free throw line. He also filled up the box score with eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks and one block. Tyler Griffey (14), Joseph Bertrand (13) and Nnanna Egwu (12) also scored in double figures for the Illini.
Illinois (12-1) is set to play Auburn (5-6) in Chicago at the United Center next Saturday. After that they will launch into Big Ten Conference play in January with Purdue and Ohio State their first two opponents.
Next up on the docket for Missouri (10-1) is a road game against the UCLA Bruins (9-3) on December 28th. Freshman Shabazz Muhammad will be the primary Bruin that the Tigers will need to account for. He’s scoring 17.8 points per game and has racked up 73 points in his last three. Muhammad is doing all of this despite being on the court less than 30 minutes per game. Another freshman, Jordan Adams is also scoring over 17 points per game, 17.5 to be exact, and gives UCLA a dynamic and talented scoring duo.