COLUMBIA, Mo. — North Carolina Central brought heavy hearts into Mizzou Arena Monday night.
Patrick Cole had 17 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists and Pablo Rivas scored 16 points on 6-for-6 shooting to help the Eagles defeat Missouri 62-52.
North Carolina Central University chancellor Debra Saunders-White died of cancer Saturday at age 59. She was the first female chancellor in school history, and as coach LeVelle Moton described, the “biggest cheerleader” for the basketball program.
“She was the best chancellor on the planet, the best person on the planet,” Moton said. “She was a fighter and I knew she would want us to fight for her and try to pay homage and honor this game for her.”
NC Central (4-2), a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, never trailed and led 24-20 at halftime. The Eagles seemed to stymie any momentum Missouri could muster over the course of its stagnant offensive performance.
Missouri (3-3) made 17 of 68 field goal attempts, shooting just 17.1 percent in the first half. It was the Tigers' lowest scoring output since losing to then-No. 13 Arizona on Dec. 13, 2015.
Terrence Phillips led Missouri with 17 points despite playing only 21 minutes due to foul trouble. He was 6-for-10 from the field but fouled out with 2:34 remaining.
“We held them to 25 percent shooting and I thought that was the difference in the game,” Moton said. “We had Phillips in foul trouble, I think he's the heart and soul of the team. As he's out there, you can just see they have a different swagger about themselves. Fortunately, he fouled out, and at the right time.”
The abysmal offense was on display from the opening tip as Missouri missed six shots and grabbed five offensive rebounds on its first possession. The Tigers went on to miss their first nine shots, most of which were put-back attempts, and finished 11-for-20 from the free throw line.
“I don't know what it is, we just can't get off to a good start,” Phillips said. “We started 0-for-9 and I think seven of those were layups, point-blank layups, and I couldn't believe we were missing them. I'm telling guys, 'Just keep shooting, those shots are going to fall' and they just kind of never did for us.”
“I'm not sure I've ever seen something like I just saw, as far as missing so many shots at the basket,” Missouri coach Kim Anderson said. “I don't have an explanation.”
Phillips hit a 3-pointer to open the second half, but the Eagles answered with an 8-0 run and maintained momentum for the duration of the half. Missouri trailed 54-50 with 1:38 remaining, but the Eagles closed on an 8-2 run.
NC Central starts five graduate seniors, making it the most experienced starting lineup in the country.
Missouri forward Reed Nikko did not play after spraining his left ankle against Northwestern State. … Forward Will Ransom was scoreless on 0-for-2 shooting but grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked a team-high four shots. … Missouri announced it will redshirt freshman Jakoby Kemp.
NC Central: Missouri was one of two Power Five schools on the Eagles' schedule. Ohio State defeated the Eagles 69-63 on Nov. 14 in Columbus. NC Central opens conference play at home against Maryland Eastern Shore on Jan. 7.
Missouri: The Tigers have struggled with slow starts this season. Missouri trailed No. 7 Xavier 9-3 early before an eventual one-point overtime loss and trailed Northwestern State 14-9 before pulling away to an 84-60 win. The Tigers also defeated Tulane 67-62 on Nov. 20 despite trailing by as many as 12 points in the first half.
Missouri hosts Western Kentucky on Saturday in the first meeting between the schools.