Mizzou Takes Down No. 5 Florida

Andrew Kauffman & Creighton Hayes have the coverage as the Missouri Tigers hosted the No. 5 Florida Gators

Tuesday, Feb. 19-

There are very few words that can describe the 63-60 win Mizzou (19-7, 8-5 SEC) picked up over No. 5 Florida (21-4, 11-2) at home on Tuesday night.

The Tigers came into the game struggling and needed the boost a top-five upset win could provide after a rough loss in the final minute against Arkansas on Saturday. Early on it did not look good for the squad, as Florida was clearly the superior team for most of the first half.

Despite a raucous sell-out Mizzou Arena crowd behind them, the Tigers were shaky early. Florida won nearly every hustle play and was able to connect on numerous open looks when Mizzou defenders failed to close out.

It also didn’t help that the Tigers couldn’t hit on the offensive end, finishing the first half a meager 2-10 from beyond the three-point line. However, Mizzou tightened up its defense to close out the half, as it held Florida without a bucket for the final four and a half minutes and clawed back to within three heading in to the break.

In the second half, the Gators managed to pull ahead again as it seemed that things just weren’t meant to be for Mizzou when seemingly every shot clanked off the rim. But a pair of back-to-back threes by Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross brought the Tigers within seven and revived the crowd in Columbia.

Following that, it was almost a role reversal for the two teams as Mizzou fed off the energy of the its fans and Florida was forced into contested jump shots by a suddenly stingy Missouri defense.

If Brown’s earlier three-poiner rejuvenated the fans, his deep ball two possessions later to give Mizzou its first lead of the game sent it into frenzy.

It would come down to Mizzou’s unreliable defense after that, but it responded in a big way. With a one-point lead and 59 seconds left on the clock, the Tigers forced Florida into three straight well-defended three-point attempts, none of which fell. A pair of Keion Bell free throws and one final heave for Florida later, and the Tigers were walking off the court with a much-needed win in their pockets.

This could prove to be the victory that turns around the season for the talented but inconsistent Mizzou team. Things certainly won’t get any easier as the Tigers travel to the famed Rupp Arena to take on Kentucky at 8 p.m. Saturday.

-Mike Bonomo
23 Sports
Staff Writer