One week after dropping a one-point decision to rival Illinois, Missouri found itself trailing at N.C. State by ten with just over eight minutes remaining. T.J. Warren was proving difficult to stop, and freshman forward Kyle Washington was beginning to assert himself for the Wolfpack as well.
But Frank Haith’s team responded immediately with an 11-1 run, and a Jabari Brown three-pointer with 56 seconds remaining gave the Tigers the lead for good in their 68-64 win in Raleigh. Even with N.C. State’s youth, Missouri’s win in its’ first true road game of the season is an important one for the Tigers.
And if there were any doubt, the way in which Missouri won provided another reminder of how their bread should be buttered offensively.
Jordan Clarkson led the way with 21 points and four assists with Brown adding 17, and while two other Tigers finished in double figures it will be these two who should lead the way in SEC play. Earnest Ross added 11 points and 13 rebounds and Johnathan Williams III added ten to go along with seven boards, supplementing the output of Missouri’s starting guards. Ross is a solid third scorer for the Tigers, averaging 14.2 points per game entering Saturday’s contest, but offensively that Clarkson/Brown tandem (and the way in which they attack teams in ball screen situations) will determine just how good they are.
Missouri held its own on the glass, rebounding 44.1% of its missed shots and outscoring the Wolfpack 15-13 in second-chance points, and the play of their young big men will be important in conference play when considering the talented front court players at Florida, Kentucky, LSU and Tennessee. If Williams, who reached double figures for the fourth time this season, can build on Saturday’s performance the Tigers will be better for it as the season wears on.
Beating a young N.C. State team won’t be a result that turns heads nationally, even with the Wolfpack looking to have better chemistry than last year’s more talented squad did. Warren led the way with 24 points and 13 rebounds (but he went scoreless over the final 11 minutes), and while they do need a second scorer to step up on a consistent basis N.C. State plays harder than they did a season ago.
Missouri could have allowed the week off and a ten-point second half deficit to be issues, but instead they rebounded and picked up a win on the road.