By Jake Sirkus
The Missouri Tigers improved to 4-0 on the season on Wednesday night after a 69-60 victory over the Liberty Flames at Mizzou Arena.
The Tigers struggled coming out of the gates, trailing by as many as 11 points in the first half and heading into the locker room behind for the first time this season. Entering this contest, the Tigers’ largest deficit was 3 points. Throughout the first half, they were consistently down by 6 or more points.
“We weren’t moving the ball in the first half,” Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin said. “We were focused on getting the ball to [Jeremiah] Tilmon.”
The Tigers definitely settled down however, and they jumped out to a 5-0 scoring run to open up the half. When they finally took the lead about midway through the second half, they never looked back.
“We settled down and started playing basketball,” Martin said.
The Tigers were led by senior guard Mark Smith, who dropped 17 points in the win over the Flames. Smith hit a big three-point shot with 5 seconds left in the first half to cut the Flames’ lead to only 4 points.
“We started off a bit slow, but in those last 7 minutes of the first half we started to play our brand of basketball, and it carried into the second half,” Smith said.
The Tigers also got a great second half defensive performance out of redshirt senior Mitchell Smith.
Coach Martin called Smith a “credit card,” saying “you cannot leave home without it.
Senior forward Jeremiah Tilmon showed out once again. Tilmon had 8 points to go along with 9 rebounds. Tilmon, the fourth-most efficient scorer in Tiger basketball history went 3-3 from the field in the win. He was consistently doubled-teamed by the Flames in the low post throughout the game and made adjustments in the second half himself.
Tilmon said that he “kept his head in the game and stayed locked in.”
With this win over Liberty, Missouri is 4-0 for the first time under Martin and the 34th time in program history.
Up next for the Tigers is the yearly Bragging Rights Game against No. 6 Illinois this Saturday at Mizzou Arena. Although it is always a long awaited, high-pressure matchup, the Tigers remain focused.
“They’re just another team with a name on their jerseys; we just have to go take care of business and do what we do,” Tilmon said.
Edited by Emma Moloney