The Tigers ran out of the Grange with a victory.
The first matchup between Missouri and Minnesota since 1960 was a battle of points as the two Power Five programs repeatedly traded momentum in an early-season test at Williams Arena.
It was a spectacular late surge that saw Mizzou erase a 20-point deficit to tie the game with 1:57 remaining and take its first and only lead of the game with nine seconds remaining.
The match was on the verge of spiraling out of control with about 13 minutes remaining. Trailing by 11 points, MU guard Caleb Grill objected to a no-call on a 3-point shot that he said deserved a foul. He slapped the ground and made contact with a passing official, resulting in an ejection and four free throws for Minnesota at a time when Missouri hadn’t even visited the charity stripe yet.
Those easy points were part of a 13-point run by the Gophers full of free throws, offensive rebounds and a well-timed 3 that nearly put the game out of reach.
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Mizzou’s depth players closed the gap, leading to a late tie thanks to free throws from rotation guard Tamar Bates.
Trailing by one point with 16.6 seconds left in the game, the Tigers had the chance to make the scoring play of their choice. Point guard Sean East II gave Missouri its first lead of the game by making a contact jumper with nine seconds on the clock, winning and making a free throw for a 70-68 lead and the victory.
Minnesota missed a pull-up 3 to try to secure the victory as time expired.
Mizzou closed the game on a 31-9 run.
On an unseasonably warm day in Minneapolis, the Gophers got hot from beyond the arc to start the game, scoring seven of their first eight field goals, including their first five 3-point attempts.
Mizzou’s offense couldn’t do much to change Minnesota’s defense early on. Debuting center Connor Vanover helped space the field, allowing East to float easily once the 7-foot-5 center dragged the Gophers big man to the perimeter.
The hosts’ shooting also quickly cooled, as they missed an open shot from the corner, launched another and slammed a third 3-point basket into the backboard. Vanover’s opening block slowed the scoring pace enough for Missouri to regain possession in the 13th minute.
Four minutes later, the Tigers trailed by 10 as their offense settled for mediocre 3-point tries, a blocked dunk and a no-look hook shot. The Gophers regained their shooting ability, hitting a mid-range jumper before 3 straight seconds to take a 30-20 lead.
Forward Noah Carter taking and hitting an open 3 and East again working his way to a favorable position under the basket cut the lead in half. Grill grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a left shot falling high off the glass to punctuate a 7-0 run and bring the game back into possession. Three offensive rebounds on one possession gave the Gophers a fourth-down chance and thwarted Mizzou’s run.
Freshman point guard Anthony Robinson II made his first collegiate 3 with a nifty step-back. Minnesota big Pharrel Payne dominated Vanover under the rim for an offensive rebound and a basket. East fell off the raised floor of Williams Arena as a last-second layup was blocked just before the halftime buzzer to give Minnesota a 38-32 lead at the break.
Minnesota’s eight unanswered points at halftime put the Gophers ahead by 14, forcing an early timeout from MU coach Dennis Gates. Continuing the back-and-forth trend, a layup by freshman center Jordan Butler, Nick Honor’s corner 3 and a dump-off to Butler slightly countered the Gophers’ hot start.
Trailing 59-39 after Grill’s expulsion, Honor went on a personal streak of 10 points, hitting two 3s and two shots from the paint.
Gates turned to the lower end of his bench over the final eight minutes, trying to find a spark through freshman Trent Pierce and junior college transfer Curt Lewis. This duo brought the lead back to single digits with six minutes remaining. Carter blocked a shot, grabbed an offensive rebound, made a layup and earned an extra free throw in a quick possession. He made the Tigers’ first free throw of the game nearly 35 minutes into the game, cutting the lead to 65-59.
On the next possession, Pierce came out of the corner and got an and-one, but missed a free throw. Robinson brought MU into possession on a transition layup.
Bates had a chance to take the lead from the free throw line, but he went 1-for-2 on the crucial trip.
Honor, who led Missouri with 16 points, couldn’t get a putback 3 after a Minnesota free throw gave the hosts the lead. He then attempted a deep 3 after an unsuccessful possession, which slammed into the front of the rim.
East’s heroics bailed out the Tigers’ sometimes-struggling offense on the final possession.
Missouri (3-1) is back in action Sunday at 5 p.m. when Jackson State (0-5) visits Mizzou Arena.
Photos: Mizzou men’s basketball comes back strong to beat Minnesota
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