COLUMBIA, Mo. — No matter how early Jeremiah Tilmon gets to the gym, the senior forward says Missouri teammate Xavier Pinson is already there.
They both deserve a morning off after this performance.
Pinson scored a career-best 36 points, Tilmon had a career-high 33 and No. 12 Missouri beat TCU 102-98 in overtime Saturday in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
“He’ll probably stay tonight and get some shots up,” Tilmon said of Pinson. “I was expecting him to come out and play good, but I wasn’t expecting something like that.”
The Tigers (11-3) trailed by 12 with less than five minutes left in regulation. Missouri, which was one of the nation’s worst 3-point shooting teams coming into the day, rallied behind Pinson’s outside shooting. He went 8 for 13 from beyond the arc, including a deep 3 with 3.9 seconds left that tied it at 89.
“I put the work in, so it’s not a surprise to me,” Pinson said of his big day.
Dru Smith put Missouri ahead to stay with a left-handed layup high off the glass in overtime. Then the Tigers managed to get two straight important stops when Mark Smith blocked a shot and Kobe Brown came up with a steal.
“Human nature, when there’s that type of lead and the crowd’s out of it, you’re ready to give up and quit,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said. “They just dug deep, made plays, drove the ball and executed stuff we talked about in practice. … Just a great, great team win.”
Freshman Mike Miles led TCU (9-7) with a career-high 28 points. Chuck O’Bannon scored 17 points, and RJ Nembhard had 15.
“Mike was really good,” TCU coach Jamie Dixon said. “He got in the lane, he was hitting shots, he made free throws. He was terrific.”
Dixon tried three different defenders on Tilmon and elected to not double-team the big man. Tilmon scored 17 first-half points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field. But on the other end, the Horned Frogs got into the paint with ease against the normally stingy Missouri defense and took a 43-38 halftime lead when O’Bannon hit a jumper just before the buzzer.
The only thing that stopped Tilmon in the second half was his own free-throw shooting – he finished 7 of 15 from the line. He grabbed 11 rebounds.
“He’s just as good as any big man, and he’s as strong as anybody in America, whether you’re talking about the NBA or not,” Martin said. “If you defend him one-on-one, I’ll take those chances all night long.”
While Pinson and Tilmon dominated offensively, Brown also delivered. He grabbed 13 rebounds, none bigger than an offensive board after Dru Smith missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds of regulation. Brown alertly found Pinson outside the arc for the tying 3-pointer.
“That was huge,” Martin said of Brown’s rebound and pass.
THE COMMISSIONER SPEAKS
Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey attended Saturday’s game. He acknowledged the possibility that some SEC games postponed for COVID-19 would not be rescheduled. The final regular-season games are scheduled for March 3, and the SEC Tournament begins on March 10.
“You have to accept we may not be able to play everything,” Sankey said.
Sankey discounted the idea that teams with solid NCAA Tournament resumes would want to skip the SEC Tournament to avoid the risk of COVID-19 infection.
“We can keep teams healthy and play a tournament,” Sankey said.
Missouri: Martin changed his starting lineup for the first time this season, inserting Javon Pickett in place of struggling guard Mark Smith. Playing as a reserve didn’t cure Smith’s shooting slump. He was 1 of 4 from the field and scored just five points, but Pickett responded well, finishing with 11 points.
TCU: The Horned Frogs entered averaging just 48.7 points in their last three games, but they broke out of that dry spell in a big way. After committing 22 turnovers in a loss to Kansas on Thursday, TCU turned it over just eight times against Missouri. The Horned Frogs shot 55% from the field.
“Progress has been made,” Dixon said. “We executed better, but we didn’t get it done.”
Missouri: The Tigers are scheduled to play Kentucky at home on Tuesday. The Wildcats paused activities on Friday because of positive COVID-19 testing, and it’s uncertain if they will be cleared in time for Tuesday’s game.
TCU: The Horned Frogs host Oklahoma State on Wednesday.