The Kansas City Star - - Sports - BY ALEX SCHIFFER as­chif­[email protected]­

Mis­souri played its fi­nal game for 11 days with­out most of its bigs, as foul trou­ble ham­pered the Tigers in a 80-64 win over Oral Roberts.

It was MU’s third straight win. De­spite hav­ing three play­ers take turns bat­tling foul trou­ble, the Tigers tied a sea­son­high with 12 threes to help over­come the whis­tle.

Illi­nois trans­fer Mark Smith led six Mis­souri play­ers in dou­ble fig­ures while shoot­ing 50 per­cent from the field and be­yond the arc.

The Tigers jumped out to a 15-4 lead with help from Jeremiah Til­mon, who Oral Roberts elected not to dou­ble team in the post. Til­mon took ad­van­tage and fin­ished in the paint twice, while draw­ing a foul. He fin­ished with 12 points and six re­bounds.

The Golden Ea­gles opened the game in a full-court press on Mis­souri to try and force turnovers, MU’s known weak­ness, which worked as Oral Roberts forced seven in the first half. Mis­souri got its ball se­cu­rity to­gether and only let up three in the sec­ond half.

“We’ve worked on it a lot,” said Jor­dan Geist on the turnovers. “We just have to be smart with it.”

Oral Roberts slowly chipped away at Mis­souri’s lead and took ad­van­tage of the foul trou­ble in­curred by Til­mon, Reed Nikko and Mitchell Smith. Nikko had four fouls in the first half while play­ing only five min­utes. The foul trou­ble by Nikko led Mis­souri head coach Cuonzo Martin to send in ju­nior col­lege trans­fer K.J. San­tos, who made his MU de­but with 10:46 left in the first half and put Oral Roberts into the bonus less than half­way through the first 20 min­utes. San­tos had missed the first eight games with a frac­tured right foot.

He showed some rust, but Martin was pleased with his per­for­mance and re­mains op­ti­mistic about San­tos’ im­prove­ment in the com­ing weeks. The 6-foot-8 sopho­more fin­ished the game with a re­bound and a steal in 11 min­utes.

“He’s a dy­namic player,” said se­nior Kevin Puryear of San­tos. “Can shoot the ball get a postup, drive the ball. Also can de­fend.”

A 6-0 run by Oral Roberts over a 90-sec­ond stretch cut Mis­souri’s lead to 22-21 with 3:56 left in the half. With Mis­souri hav­ing to play small with three play­ers in foul trou­ble and use Puryear as a cen­ter, the Tigers’ of­fense went stag­nant at times and strug­gled to score.

“We hadn’t spent a lot of time go­ing against a 1-3-1 (zone),” Martin said. “The big­gest thing we try to do is post up Til­mon, but I think when he was in foul trou­ble, that’s when they went to it.”

A pair of threes by Mark Smith and an­other from Tor­rence Wat­son sent Mis­souri into the half with some breath­ing room, up 33-26.

Mis­souri got some push from Oral Roberts in the sec­ond half de­spite getting Til­mon back to run of­fense through. A pair of threes from DeShang Weaver with 16 min­utes left cut Mis­souri’s lead to 37-34. Wat­son hit an­other cor­ner three the fol­low­ing posses­sion. He fin­ished 4 for 4 from three and had a ca­reer-high 12 points for the sec­ond straight game. Four straight points from Ker­win Smith with 14 min­utes left cut MU’s lead to 40-38, which is where Geist took over.

Geist, a se­nior guard, scored an ath­letic layup off a fast­break and then stole the fol­low­ing in­bounds pass and scored off it while pick­ing up the foul. Geist con­verted the three-point play to spark a 10-0 Mis­souri run that ul­ti­mately put the game out of reach. The 6-foot-2 guard fin­ished with 12 points and said after the game that his back in­jury has been im­prov­ing.

Martin con­sid­ered Geist’s steal-and-score a mo­men­tum changer for his group since it put Mis­souri’s of­fense into an­other gear.

“Those two plays re­ally jacked us up,” Puryear said. “That’s an en­ergy play. It built a low of mo­men­tum. That’s how we closed out the game.”

Em­manuel Nzek­wesi led Oral Roberts with 17 points and six re­bounds for the game. The Golden Ea­gles dropped to 3-9 on the sea­son.

The Tigers were with­out fresh­man Chris­tian Guess, who was in­el­i­gi­ble after drop­ping a class, which brought him be­low the NCAA-re­quired credit num­ber to play in games. Martin was un­sure of Guess’ sta­tus go­ing for­ward but added that Guess drop­ping the class doesn’t mean his grades are a con­cern.

Mis­souri is off un­til Dec. 18 when the Tigers face Xavier and first-year coach Travis Steele. Tipoff is slated for 6 p.m.


Oral Roberts’s Ker­win Smith, left, fouls Mis­souri’s Jeremiah Til­mon, right, as he tries to shoot dur­ing the first half of the game in Columbia Fri­day.

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