The 9th ranked Missouri Tigers were down one with two minutes to play and went on a 9-4 run to finish off a surging Illinois basketball team to remain undefeated with a 78-74 win in the Braggin’ Rights series at Scottrade Center Thursday night in St. Louis. With the win the Tigers improve to 12-0 and win their third straight in the annual series with the Illini.
Illinois used a 15-5 run over a six minute period and eventually regained the lead with five minutes to go, grabbing a 64-63 lead after Missouri had built up a 14 point lead early into the second half. Illinois shot 56% from the field in the second half led by Joseph Bertrand who came off the bench to score 17 of his 19 points in the second half on 9 of 9 shooting for the game. Illinois’ 7’1 center Meyers Leonard scored 10 in the second after being held to just three shot attempts in the first 20 minutes.
While there were times that Frank Haith wished his team would have run some offense, the time to push was in the final two minutes.
Phil Pressey drove in against Leonard and flipped a nifty behind the back pass to Ratliffe who laid it in to give the Tigers a 69-67 lead. D.J. Richardson was fouled attempting a three and sank all three of his free throws, giving Illinois a 70-69 lead with 2:01 to go. Mizzou came back and got a layup from Ratliffe and after Dixon came up with a steal, Kim English answered on the fast break and made a layup while getting fouled. He completed the three point play putting the Tigers up 74-70 with 1:12 to play. The Tigers forced another turnover and Ratliffe missed his first attempt on a short look but grabbed his own rebound and put it back and extended the lead to 76-70 with :55 to play. Illinois would never get closer than four.
Senior Steve Moore provided Mizzou with a shot in the arm that helped push the Tigers in front midway through the first half. Haith had to sit Ratliffe who picked up two fouls and missed the final ten minutes of the first half. While the Tigers fell behind 7-2 Moore stepped up and had two blocks on consecutive Illinois possessions that helped Missouri go on a 12-0 run to take a 14-7 lead. Moore also had four rebounds and finished with three blocks in the first half.
Missouri hit 5 of 10 on three pointers in the first half as Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon each scored 11 to help Mizzou open an 11 point lead at the break.
Pressey and Dixon each finished with 19, while Ratliffe scored 14 and Matt Pressey added 10. The Tigers shot 44% for the game and were outrebounded 35-30.
AUDIO Frank Haith’s postgame (7:30)