Mizzou Falls to Illinois in Braggin’ Rights Game

By Jacob Kornhauser, 23 Sports

Saturday, Dec. 21-

The Missouri men’s basketball team dropped its first game of the season in heartbreaking fashion in the annual Braggin’ Rights game, losing to Illinois 65-64. The loss pushes Missouri to 10-1 on the season.

The game was a back and forth battle with the two teams trading leads several times.

Missouri stormed out of the gate red-hot, claiming an 8-0 lead just minutes into the contest. Working its way back into the defensive battle, Illinois stormed back to a 16-15 lead at the mid-point of the first half.

Led by transfer Rayvonte Rice’s seven first half points, Illinois took a 31-27 lead into halftime. While the two teams battled throughout the entire game, the game didn’t really heat up until the second half.

Jordan Clarkson was the star of the game for Missouri and he sparked a rally for the Tigers in the second half. One highlight included a lead pass that found its way into his hands as he rose up and dunked the ball to tie the score at 35-35. Clarkson continued his hot start to the season as he finished the game with a game-high 25 points.

The two rivals continued to trade scores. Every time that one team knocked down a big shot, the other team answered with big shots of its own.

Following two made free throws from Clarkson, the teams were again tied 44-44 with just under 13 minutes left in the second half. Over the next several minutes, the Tigers finally got their transition offense going which spurred a 9-2 Missouri run, leaving the Tigers with a 53-46 lead.

As was the case all day, the Illini fought back into the game. Illinois guards Tracy Abrams and Rice consistently got to the line and helped the Illini climb back into a 53-53 tie with just 6:54 left in the game.

Abrams sunk another jumper to put Illinois up 55-53 before Clarkson hit a clutch three-pointer with a hand in his face to give Missouri the lead 56-55.

The game fell under three minutes as Abrams sunk two free throws just before Missouri’s Earnest Ross hit two free throws of his own. With 2:32 left in the game, it was Illinois clinging to a 59-58 lead.

After a couple of impressive defensive stands for both teams, Clarkson found Ross in the corner and he hit a three-pointer to give Missouri a 61-59 lead with 1:52 left in the game. It was Ross’ only three-pointer made out of four attempts as he and teammate Jabari Brown struggled; Brown went 3-11 from the field with 10 points.

Following an Illinois timeout, the Illini turned a broken play into a crucial one. After shutting down the lane, the Missouri defense lost track of Jon Ekey of Illinois as he hit a huge three to put the Illini up 62-61.

After Rice made a free throw to put Illinois up 63-61 with 23 seconds left in the game, both Missouri and Illinois used timeouts to get set up for what looked like the final possession of the game.

Out of the timeouts, Clarkson tried to drive the lane, but turned and funneled the ball to Brown in the corner as he hit a cold-blooded three-pointer to put the Tigers up 64-63 with just 16 seconds left.

After another Missouri timeout, Illinois attempted to retake the lead. In what looked like a disjointed play, the Illini got the ball to Abrams who was fouled with less than five seconds to play.

Abrams swiftly knocked down both free throws and gave Illinois a 65-64 lead.

On the ensuing inbound play, the ball found Clarkson, but he bobbled the ball. Desperately, Tony Criswell scooped up the loose ball, ran down the court and heaved a deep three at the buzzer that didn’t fall, ending Missouri’s hopes of a miracle finish.

The loss is Missouri’s first in the annual Braggin’ Rights game in the last five years and their first loss of the 2013-2014 season.

Following the loss, the Tigers will look to rebound against North Carolina State on Dec. 28 from PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.

Tip-off for the game is 7 p.m.