The Maneater

Tigers hold on against No. 21 Texas A&M, 62-58

The win was the Tigers’ fifth straight in conference play and third against a ranked opponent this season.

Kassius Robertson drives past a Mississippi State defender on Feb. 10, 2018.

The Missouri Tigers received votes in this week’s AP Poll for the second time this year, but on Tuesday night, the team showed it may be on its way to being more than just a footnote in the rankings of college basketball’s best.

The Tigers defeated a ranked opponent for the third time this year on Tuesday, knocking off the No. 21 Texas A&M Aggies 62-58 at Mizzou Arena. The win was the Tigers’ fifth straight in Southeastern Conference play and snapped the Aggies’ four-game win streak.

Missouri (18-8, 8-5 SEC) got a lot of help from freshman Jeremiah Tilmon. The East St. Louis, Illinois, native was exceptional in the first half, posting 8 points while playing excellent defense and not committing a foul. He finished with 14 points and three rebounds, along with an assist and two blocks. He was active on the defensive end all night, contributing to a team effort that limited Texas A&M to 39 percent shooting from the field.

Aggies head coach Billy Kennedy said the Tigers impressed him on the defensive end.

“I thought [their] doubling in the post and their pace of the game was very strong,” Kennedy said. “Their defense was much better than some of the teams we’ve played recently.”

Missouri came very close to a meltdown similar to the one the team suffered Saturday afternoon against Mississippi State. The Tigers led 57-48 with 5:24 remaining, but two horrific possessions on both ends of the floor saw the Aggies drain two straight 3s and cut the Tigers’ lead to 3 with 4:21 to go. After the Tigers failed to score out of their timeout, the teams traded possessions without a basket before a layup by Aggies forward Robert Williams brought the Aggies within 1. Then, seemingly just in time, Kassius Robertson went to work.

Robertson, Missouri’s leading scorer, was not interested in playing another overtime game. He led the team with 16 points on Tuesday, but none of them were bigger than the layup he hit with 1:46 remaining. With his team on the verge of another collapse, Robertson drove into the lane and made a layup that he placed perfectly on the right side of the glass to give the Tigers a 3-point lead they would not relinquish.

Martin said Robertson “made the right play” on the layup and praised the graduate transfer for his poise.

“I think it’s safe to say he’s our leader,” Martin said. “He wears that very well because he says the right things in the locker room and he doesn’t do it with cockiness or arrogance. He has a humility to him.”

After Robertson’s layup, Missouri still found a way to make it interesting. The team forced an Aggies shot clock violation when junior Jordan Geist threw off freshman guard TJ Starks’ timing with 19.6 seconds left, seemingly locking up the game. But a poor inbounds pass from Geist to Robertson was intercepted by Aggies guard Admon Gilder, giving Texas A&M one last possession and a point-blank layup attempt from Williams that rimmed out. Missouri forward Jontay Porter came down with the rebound, was fouled and made both of his free throw attempts, and the Tigers held on.

Robertson was not pleased with the high-level drama that transpired late in the game.

“We can’t inbound the ball late game for some reason,” Robertson said. “That’s our problem. We’ve got that on the [practice] board to try and fix that.”

Tilmon also acknowledged that his team has some work to do late in games but said he was happy to get the win.

“It’s fun because [we’re] winning,” Tilmon said. “What else can you ask for besides winning?”

The Tigers will have a chance at a sixth straight win when they travel to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to take on the LSU Tigers on Saturday. The game will tip off at 1 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2.

Edited by Bennett Durando | bdurando@themaneater.com

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