If the Tigers’ 75-71 victory at Arkansas on Tuesday night wasn’t their best win of the season, it had to be their sweetest.
It came against former Tigers coach Mike Anderson which, if you remember Frank Haith and Anderson squabbling last year, must have added to Missouri’s satisfaction. If you saw the way Anderson blew by Haith in the post-game handshake line, without even a glance or a nod, you know the Arkansas coach was not a happy camper.
It came on the road, where Missouri’s troubles have been well established. This wasn’t just any road stop, either. Arkansas had won 25 of its past 26 at home and Missouri had not won in six tries at Bud Walton Arena.
It came at a time when Missouri badly needed a solid resume-builder for the NCAA Tournament after starting 3-3 in the SEC.
Johnathan Williams III played one of the best games you’ll ever see for someone who made only 1 of 8 shots and scored four points. While the 6-9 freshman again struggled to finish inside, this time he made it difficult for Arkansas to score in the paint, too.
Williams had three blocked shots, and twice in the second half he emphatically rejected Razorbacks’ leading scorer Rashad Madden near the rim. Williams also pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds, none bigger than the one he came flying in for with half a minute left and Arkansas still in the game. And then, most impressively, the 53.2 percent free-throw shooter hit two from the line to seal the victory.
Sophomore Ryan Rosburg also turned in a productive performance, finishing with eight points and nine rebounds, as the Tigers dominated the rebounding, 42-25. Sixteen of Missouri’s boards came on the offensive end.
Overshadowed for much of the season by the scoring of Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson, Earnest Ross delivered his first 20-point outing in the past 11 games. He didn’t top the Tigers in scoring by himself, but his 24 points co-led them along with Brown, who delivered his fifth straight 20-point game.
It was a 3-pointer by Ross with 59 seconds left that put the Tigers in front for good after Arkansas had evened the score at 64. Ross hit the shot from beyond the top of the key after Clarkson drove, went up in the air and dished back.
Ross and Brown both shot 8 for 8 from the free-throw line for the night. The Tigers finished 22 of 27 from the charity stripe, including 16 for 16 in the second half.
Live by the 3 …
Arkansas isn’t particularly noted for its long-distance shooting but 3-pointers kept the Razorbacks close in the first half. While they made only 2 of 10 2-point attempts in the first half, they hit 8 of 17 3-pointers, including one late that closed Missouri’s lead to 36-34 at the half.
The Razorbacks came out firing after intermission but missed three open looks early on. After that, the Tigers did a better job of closing out on the shooters, and Arkansas made only 4 of 12 3-pointers in the second half.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.