SEC: Missouri holds off Texas A&M in double overtime
ATLANTA -- Missouri had to advance in the Southeastern Conference tournament to have any hope of landing an NCAA bid.
Now, the Tigers will get a chance to really pad their resume.
Jabari Brown scored 26 points, Earnest Ross added 24 and Missouri held off Texas A&M 91-83 in double overtime Thursday in the second round of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Next up: top-ranked Florida in the quarterfinals Friday.
"This is a good chance to showcase what we do," Ross said. "We want to leave it all on the court."
The Tigers (22-10) had quite a tussle against Texas A&M. The Aggies (17-15) rallied from nine points down in the second half and forced another extra period when little-used senior Blake McDonald made a steal under the basket and flipped to Alex Caruso for the tying layup with 8 seconds remaining in the first OT.
"We knew they weren't going to roll over," Brown said. "We knew we had to play hard for 40 minutes, and actually it took 50."
Missouri twice failed to get off a shot with chances to win the game in the closing seconds. It didn't matter. The Tigers finally wore down the Aggies, who had lost at Missouri 57-56 just eight days earlier.
Brown and fellow guard Jordan Clarkson both fouled out, but Johnathan Williams had four points and two of his game-high 15 rebounds in the second OT. Shane Rector, who didn't play at all through the first 45 minutes, contributed three points and two rebounds.
Caruso led Texas A&M with 28 points, hitting 5 of 9 from 3-point range. Jamal Jones chipped in with 20 points.
Missouri dominated on the inside, outrebounding the Aggies 48-28 and going a staggering 40 of 53 at the foul line. That's where Brown did much of his damage, drawing fouls and knocking down 14 of 18. Ross connected on 9 of 10 free throws.
Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy was disturbed by the disparity in free throws, noting that his team went 20 of 28.
"They shot 53 free throws," he said. "You've got to be kidding me. That's too many free throws."
After being down much of the game, Texas A&M surged ahead 68-64 with 1:52 remaining in regulation on yet another 3-pointer from Caruso.
But Missouri tied it up with four straight free throws, sandwiched around a missed 3 by Antwan Space.
Both teams squandered chances to win it in regulation. The Aggies' Kourtney Roberson missed a turnaround jumper with 15 seconds remaining. Missouri grabbed the rebound and called a timeout to set up a potential final play.
Clarkson dribbled up court slowly, then spun into the lane and tried to dump off a pass. Texas A&M broke it up, and the horn sounded as the teams scrambled for the loose ball, leaving the score tied at 68.
As was the case most of the day, Missouri appeared to have things under control in the first overtime, leading 77-73 after Clarkson sank a pair of free throws with 21.5 seconds remaining.
Caruso missed for the Aggies, but Roberson snatched the rebound, was fouled and made both free throws with 11.7 seconds left. McDonald, who had played only 2 minutes in the game to that point, came off the bench and made an immediate impact.
After Missouri inbounded and tried an ill-advised pass under its own basket, McDonald swooped in to make the steal, flipped it to Caruso while falling out of bounds, and watched his teammate drop in the tying shot.
Again, Missouri had a chance to win it. Again, the Tigers failed to get up a shot. Clarkson lost control under the basket and the horn sounded during another scramble.
Missouri started the season 12-1 in non-conference play but struggled once it got into the SEC part of its schedule. The Tigers went 9-9 in the league, a team once ranked in the Top 25 squarely on the NCAA bubble heading into the Georgia Dome. They are still alive, moving on to face the mighty Gators, who beat Missouri 68-58 on Feb. 4.
"We're the only team in the country that has this opportunity," Missouri coach Frank Haith said. "We've got to look forward to it."
Texas A&M's only hope of making the NCAAs was an improbable run to the championship in Atlanta.
It ended after one game and two overtimes.
"We should have closed the game out," Jones said. "We had the guys. We had the energy. We just fell a little short."