Phil Pressey scored 18 points and handed out five assists, leading No. 9 Missouri to a narrow 78-74 win over No. 25 Illinois on Thursday.
The Tigers (12-0) trailed 70-68 with two minutes remaining, but closed the game with a 10-4 run to secure their first 12-0 start since the 1981-82 season.
Michael Dixon had 18 points in the win, while Ricardo Ratliffe added 14.
Brandon Paul posted a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds to pace the Illini (11-2), losers of two of three. Joseph Bertrand also had 19 points, while Meyers Leonard added 14 points and 13 boards and D.J. Richardson finished with 13 points.
“They’re very good. They’ll be one of the best teams we play all year,” said Illinois coach Bruce Weber. “Tough to match up with.”
Missouri led by as many as 14 early in the second half, but Illinois began to chip away. With seven minutes remaining, a pair of free throws by Leonard capped a 17-3 run and put the Illini on top, 62-61.
Pressey responded with a layup on the other end, triggering a back-and-forth finish.
With two minutes left, Richardson was fouled while attempting a trey. The shot didn’t fall, but he hit all three free throws, giving Illinois a 70-68 lead.
Missouri responded with a 7-0 run, reclaiming an advantage which it did not relinquish. Ratliffe started the burst with a layup, then came up with a steal and English converted a three-point play on the other end for a 73-70 lead. With a minute remaining, Ratliffe put back an offensive rebound to cap the run and the Tigers held on for the win.
“Particularly on the offensive end, I thought we took some quick shots, settled for some threes,” said Missouri coach Frank Haith. “But, with that said, we lost the lead and I’m proud of how these guys fought, kept themselves together and found a way to win.”
In the first half, Missouri used a 12-0 run to grab a 19-9 lead near the midway point. Matt Pressey’s put-back slam at the buzzer gave the Tigers a 41-30 lead at the break — their largest advantage of the contest to that point.