By Aidan Johnson
Gainesville, FL — Dru Smith had a monster night for the Missouri Men’s Basketball team. The senior guard totaled 17 points, 9 assists, 6 steals, 3 rebounds, a block and scored the game-winning basket in Mizzou’s first-ever road win against Florida. That performance, arguably his best of the season, is what propelled the Tigers to a vastly important morale-boosting 72-70 win over the Gators.
The last regular-season road game for Mizzou was one that was filled with drama throughout its entirety. Neither team ever led by more than 10 points, and each team also had four or more players score over 10 points. Outside of Dru Smith, the Tigers received scoring from up and down their lineup. Xavier Pinson and Mitchell Smith each contributed 14 points (Smith’s career high), Jeremiah Tilmon added 12, and Mark Smith scored 11 points of his own as well.
“It’s who we have to be; we have to move the ball. We knew Tilmon was going to be doubled, so we knew we had to work the ball around,” Coach Cuonzo Martin explained postgame.
The “hustle stats” is another area where the Tigers excelled in the game. They totaled 26 rebounds, including 11 offensive boards, 9 steals, and they added a block as well. Despite that strong effort, the game still came down to a single play. Tied at 70 apiece with 10 seconds remaining on the clock, Xavier Pinson moved the ball to Dru Smith who drove to the basket and hit a reverse layup on one of the leading shot blockers in the SEC, Colin Castleton.
“That’s a play coach drew up in the timeout. He called the ball screen and I just had to make the play,” Dru Smith explained on the last shot. “Honestly, he has gone to me at the end of games before and I have made bad plays. I didn’t know if it was coming to me but I was happy he went back to me.”
Florida, despite losing the game, had strong performances from a lot of its lineup as well. Tre Mann scored 21 points, Tyree Appleby contributed 12, Noah Locke had 11, and Castleton added 10 as well. They shot a very impressive 58% from the field, with Mann leading the way shooting 9-11 on the night. However, on the flip side, the Gators could not hold onto the ball. They had 15 turnovers in the first half alone and then added three more in the second half.
For Missouri, the win marked a very important end to the slump they had been in for almost two weeks. The Tigers won for the first time since February 20th and ended a stretch where they had lost four of their last five games.
“I’m happy for our guys. We beat a well-coached, hard-working, talented team on the road. It’s always difficult to win on the road,” Martin added postgame.
The Tigers have one regular-season game remaining on their schedule. They will take on the LSU Tigers in Columbia for senior day on Saturday. That game will be broadcast on 88.1 FM or on KCOU.FM and the game thread can be found on the KCOU Sports Twitter page.
Edited by Tyler Kading