Grant Green – 23 Sports

The two former rivals in the Big 12 met again for a first-round matchup in the NCAA Tournament as the No. 8 Oklahoma Sooners took on No. 9 Missouri Tigers in the West section of the bracket. Both teams stumbled into this matchup as Oklahoma lost five of their last six games prior, and Missouri only won three of their last nine games.

The game started at a fast pace, Mark Smith made back-to-back three-point shots to give Missouri a 12-7 lead less than four minutes in the game. But after that point, a long stretch of nothing, as neither team crossed twenty points until there were a little over seven minutes left when Dru Smith made a three from a Xavier Pinson pass. That would put Missouri up 22-19.

Oklahoma stayed in this game thanks to the trio of Austin Reaves, Elijah Harkless and Brady Manek totaling twenty-two of their twenty-six first-half points as Mizzou went into the half up 27-26

To no surprise, it was Manek who got the Sooners going in the second half with a three on the first possession. Missouri struggled to score in the second half, only 2 points through almost 5 minutes of gameplay. Dru Smith’s three with 14:54 left to play was Missouri’s first three in ten minutes. Missouri still shot 41% in the game (11-27).

Missouri’s inability to take care of business when Reaves was not on the floor continued to be a problem. Reaves went on an 8-0 run himself coming up halfway through the second half.

Missouri stayed close, feeding Tilmon inside and getting to the free-throw line, then another Dru Smith three-pointer gave them another lead 55-54, 6:21 remaining. However, the Tigers started to let the Sooners get to the line more often. Oklahoma shot eight more free throws than Missouri. Harkless and Manek continued to make shots, and with 2:51 remaining, Oklahoma went up 63-57.

With a little over a minute left, Reaves’s free throw put the Sooners up 69-61. Next play Dru Smith nailed a three, 69-64. Harkless went 1 of 2 from the free-throw line, leaving it a two-point possession for the Tigers, and they capitalized. Dru Smith hits a step-back three to make it 70-67 Oklahoma with 46.7 seconds left. Dru finished the game as Mizzou’s leading scorer with 20 points.

The Dru Smith heroics did not stop there, he came up with a big block on Reaves with ten seconds, but Harkless made the perfect decision to intentionally foul, and it forced Drew Buggs two free throws down three. He went one for two, Mizzou still down 70-68. The intentional foul didn’t work on Jalen Hill, who sank both free throws and ended the game, Oklahoma winning 72-68 to move on to the Round of 32.

Oklahoma would come up significantly short in the next round, as Gonzaga cruised to the Sweet Sixteen with an 87-71 victory.

About Smith, Kayler (MU-Student)

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