No. 22 MISSOURI 71, SOUTH CAROLINA 65
By R.B. FALLSTROM
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Frank Haith seemed fairly calm for a coach under fire, and one who shed his sports coat and tie while willing his team forward.
No. 22 Missouri’s second-half surge no doubt had a lot to do with it.
During a dismal first half Haith said he “almost bust a blood vessel.” After the Tigers rallied from 13 points down in the second half and held off South Carolina 71-65 on Tuesday, the coach said he was relieved that a lengthy NCAA investigation implicating Haith in recruiting violations at Miami was apparently about to end.
Earnest Ross and Jabari Brown hit key 3-pointers in the final 1:11 for Missouri, which was just 5 for 27 from long range overall.
Ross had a career-best 21 points and Brown had 17 for Missouri (14-4, 3-2 Southeastern Conference), which is 11-0 at home this season and has won 12 straight at the Mizzou Arena since losing to Kansas State and coach Frank Martin, now in his first year at South Carolina, on Feb. 21, 2012.
Brown had eight points in a 20-2 run that gave Missouri a five-point lead with just under 12 minutes to go. Alex Oriakhi was 10 for 10 at the line and fouled out in the final minute with 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Tigers, who won despite 33 percent overall shooting.
Brenton Williams had 16 points with four 3-pointers for South Carolina (11-7, 1-4), which has lost four conference games by a combined 18 points and faced its first ranked opponent of the season. RJ Shawson added 10 points for the Gamecocks, who shot 37 percent.
Missouri had a huge advantage at the free throw line, going 28 for 36 compared to 11 for 17 by South Carolina. Martin stopped short of criticizing the referees.
“I thought both teams were going at it at the rim,” Martin said. “I’m not going to go there because I’m probably not going to wake up really happy tomorrow if I go there.
“I don’t know what to tell you. They came at us. We went at them.”
South Carolina went more than 5˝ minutes between points, finally ending the drought on a tip-in by Brian Richardson that cut the deficit to three with 11:34 left.