Saturday night The University of Illinois and the University of Missouri hooked up in Columbia Missouri for the annual Braggin Rights game. The NO. 6 Illini favored by many in this game. The Illini came in boasting not one but TWO Wooden award prospects in Jr. G Ayo Dosunmu and So. C Kofi Cockburn. Missouri entered the game undefeated and with a mostly Junior and Senior line up featuring ex-Illini Mark Smith and former Illini Commit Jeremiah Tilmon. Along with three other players from Illinois.
While neither Mark Smith nor Tilmon would play significant roles in the game thier teammates more than made up for thier shortcomings. Starters Dru Smith and Xavier Pinson combined for 35 points 5 rebounds and 8 assists. Starter Kobe Brown added 12 points and 8 boards. Missouri also got 14 points and 5 rebounds from former Illinois recruit Javon Pickett coming off the bench. Illinois had a career point output from Dosunmo 36 and Cockburn added 19 more the rest of the starting quintet managed 9 points. Illinois did get help off the bench from Andre Curbello with 14 points 4 rebounds and 4 assists, but that was the extent of it.
Both teams shot well from the floor Illinois 52.7% Missouri 47.2%. Neither team shot well beyond the arc 23.1% for Illinois and 22.7% for Missouri. It was at the Free Throw line where the discrepancy showed Illinois was 17-28 for 60.7% Missouri was 26-31 for 83.9%. In the 1st half Missouri was 16-16 from the charity stripe.
It was apparent from the outset that each would use a different strategy. Illinois opted for more of a half court game while Mizzou was content to push the ball downhill and up tempo. The up tempo pace seemed to give the Illini fits while the half court game always seemed to find Dosunmu and Curbello open or driving to the basket. When Tilmon got into early foul trouble it created a mismatch inside but Illinois was not able to capitalize on that. The game was fairly close until the 2:16 mark of the first half, when Javon Pickett threw down a slam dunk and Parker Braun sank two free throws. Mizzou was up by 7 at that time. Demonte Williams sank a three for Illinois(his only points in the game) then two more baskets by Mizzou later and the lead at the half was 49-41 Missouri.
The second half saw an opening 2 minute drought by both teams Ayo Dosunmu got the first points of the second half. Dosunmu scored 8 points in 5 minutes The only points Illinois would get in those 5 minutes. However Missouri was still only 8 points up. Then Missouri opened up and 4 minutes later they were 13 points up thanks to the trio of Pickett, Dru Smith and Pinson, culminated by a Smith 3 pointer. A modest Illinois comeback led by Dosunmu 8 points got Illinois with in 5 points at the 6:22 mark. After trading Free Throws, Kofi Cockburn got free for back to back dunks cutting the lead to 1 point 75-74 at the 4:28 mark. At the 3:22 mark Dosunmu hit a jumper which knotted the game at 76 all. Mitchell Smith unties the game with a pair of Free Throws with 3:09 to go. After a series of missed shots and turnovers Xavier Pinson hits a jumper with :52 left on the clock to give Missouri a 4 point lead. 12 seconds later Cockburn scored two points but was called for a flagrant 1 which seemed to be more of no call than a foul. Dru Smith made one of his two Free Throws thus giving Missouri an 81-78 lead with :40 left between missed shots and fouls the game ended with Missouri holding on for the win.
Missouri out rebounded Illinois 38-32 for the game Illinois did cut down thier turnovers committing 13 for the game. They came in averaging 15 TO per game. Missouri committed 18 turnovers. Missouri seemed to have more energy and urgency than Illinois. They also were more balanced in thier offensive approach, with the opportunities to score being spread around. While the Illinois offense flowed thru Dosunmu and Curbello and most everyone else watching.
This was a good win for a Missouri program seeking an identity. They were a quiet 4-0 coming into the game Winning against a high ranked team like Illinois gives them a signature non-conference win. This was thier second win against a ranked opponent this season They beat NO. 21 Oregon on a neutral court Dec 2.
Up next for Missouri is two more non-conference games against Prairie View A&M Dec 18th and Bradley Dec 22. while Illinois starts Conference play Dec. 15 at home against Minnesota. Missouri is now 5-0 and surely due to be ranked come next week Illinois is 4-2 and likely will drop maybe out of the top ten.
Thanks for reading.