(Photo Credit: Jamie Squire- Getty Images)
It’s finally happened. Missouri basketball is back in the win column. Backed by an astounding 28-point clinic from freshman guard Namon Wright the Tigers upended the Florida Gators 64-52 on the way to their eighth victory of the season.
Wright carried the the team throughout game registering a team high 35 minutes, while shooting 77 percent from the field and 6-8 from behind the three-point line. Missouri’s scoring leader Johnathan Williams III and Montaque Gill-Caesar each tallied nine points on the game.
Wright helped the Tigers establish an early lead connecting on his first three shots, one being a three-pointer. Missouri also showed improvement distributing the ball as the team combined for 12 assists on the night.
With 2:30 remaining in the opening half the Gators settled in and used an 8-1 run to take a six-point lead 31-25.
Following a dunk from Wright to close out the half the Tigers trailed by four 31-27.
In the second half Wright started out hot once more connecting on his first three shots to tie the game up at 35-35. With the exception of Wright the rest of the Tiger team struggled shooting, going a combined 9-31 from the field.
Though Missouri’s shooting woes were matched by Florida, as the Gators couldn’t get anything working on the offensive end. The Gators finished the night shooting an abysmal 39 percent from the field and 39 percent from the charity stripe. Florida head coach Billy Donovan was not pleased with his team’s effort saying his guys made some decisions in the final 11 minutes that “left him scratching his head”.
Of course the Gators were without their top two players in Dorian Finney-Smith and Michael Frazier II, which may have been a reason for Florida’s struggles throughout, but certainly not an excuse.
The final eight minutes were back and forth until Missouri built a six-point lead as Wright connected on yet another three-pointer. The Tigers sealed the deal down the stretch with clutch free throw shooting to pull away with the victory.
What a night Wright had for the Tigers. The freshman guard did what I’ve been waiting to see him do all season long. His performance tonight is a testament to what kind of talent this team carries. If Gill-Caesar, Wes Clark, and Williams III can all find their strokes beautiful things can happen for the Missouri Tigers.
Missouri head coach Kim Anderson made a note of having shorter practices to work on fundamentals and shot development, the two big areas of concern for the Tigers. They’ve competed throughout the season, but it always seems to come down to the little things that end up costing them in late game situations.
Obviously playing a banged up Florida is far from a statement win, but it at least shows the team is still putting in the time and effort despite the fact that they won’t make a tournament run.
Whether you love or hate Missouri basketball, tonight we can all appreciate this victory.
The Tigers are next in action on the road at Georgia Feb. 28.
Game Note: Billy Donovan misses out on his 500th win with the loss to the Tigers.
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