Brown leads Missouri past South Carolina

Photo by The Associated Press.

COLUMBIA — Don’t blink. You might miss another Jabari Brown 3-pointer.

Missouri’s junior sharpshooter continued his torrid shooting from beyond the arc, connecting on 4-of-6 attempts from long range to up his four-game total to 16-of-24 (67 percent), while scoring 24 points to lead the Tigers past the South Carolina Gamecocks 82-74 on Saturday afternoon at Mizzou Arena.

“He don’t miss,” South Carolina head coach Frank Martin said matter-of-factly. “He don’t miss.”

There wasn’t much missing going on for Brown. He extended his streak of games with 20-plus points to four on an efficient 7-of-13 shooting, including 6-of-7 from the foul line.

“I prepare the same way every day,” Brown said. “I’m just trying to take good shots, quality shots, and my teammates have been finding me in open spots, so credit to them too.”

Brown was finding his teammates as well. Aside from his scoring output, the 6-foot-5 guard’s six assists (and six rebounds) can’t be overlooked. Missouri dished out a season-high 18 assists in the contest. Jordan Clarkson added 22 points while Earnest Ross had 14 for the Tigers.

“He’s making plays,” Missouri head coach Frank Haith said of Brown. “When it comes down to it, he’s not only making plays for himself but he’s making plays for others. When you’re a guy that’s putting up the numbers he’s putting up, at the rate he’s putting up, he’s on the top of everybody’s scouting report.”

While Brown and the Tigers were scorching the nets from deep (8-of-17 overall), it might have been Missouri’s early efforts inside that opened up the perimeter shots.

Missouri made an effort to get the ball in the post early on, exploiting the Tigers’ significant size advantage. South Carolina’s starting frontcourt stands at just 6-foot-9 (Demetrius Henry) and 6-foot-5 (Michael Carrera).

The strategy paid off as Johnathan Williams III (6-foot-9) and Ryan Rosburg (6-foot-10) accounted for five of Missouri’s first eight points. The duo finished with eight points apiece.

“We want those guys to get out there and get confidence,” Haith said. “… I thought (Williams) and Ryan Rosburg were great. … We will take that most nights out of both those guys.”

Along with a pair of 3-pointers from Ross and Brown, the Tigers opened the game with 11 consecutive points.

“They did jump on us pretty quick from the get-go,” said South Carolina guard Brenton Williams, who scored a game-high 32 points while connecting on seven 3-pointers.

South Carolina countered with a 14-6 run, which fittingly coincided with Missouri moving away from getting the ball into the post and playing inside-out.

Yet that’s when Missouri took over.

Ahead 22-18, the Tigers scored the game’s next 16 points to go up 38-18 with 1:48 to go until halftime. Ross accounted for nine points during the surge. Missouri held a 38-22 advantage at the intermission.

“That’s the luxury of having three guys that can score the ball,” Haith said. “At that point in time it was Earnest making some plays and that was important for us. We didn’t panic. We had some composure out there.”

While an early 9-1 run did get South Carolina within 42-31, a pair of back-to-back 3-pointers from Clarkson and Brown quelled any threat of a rally.

Brown’s final 3 came with 4:55 to play, giving Missouri a 71-55 edge.

“When Jabari has made two or three threes, we need to make sure we keep getting him the ball and not go away from him,” Haith said.

South Carolina finally surged back within single digits on a basket from Carrera with 1:42 left that made it 73-64. That was part of a 12-2 Gamecock run that put the score at 73-67 with 78 seconds remaining.

“When you get in league play and you’re up by 20, you’re not going to beat a team by 40,” Haith said. “They’re going to continue to fight, they’re going to continue to compete. At some point in time it may be, ‘Yeah, we have some slippage in our play,’ but maybe you want to give South Carolina a little credit. … South Carolina made some plays, made some shots.”

Carrera added 16 points and 11 rebounds while Sindarius Thornwell chipped in with 14 points for South Carolina (7-12, 0-6).

Missouri (15-4, 3-3 SEC) travels Tuesday to Arkansas. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. on ESPNU.

“The stretch we have coming up is tough (games with Kentucky, Florida and Mississippi follow), but all I’m worried about right now is Arkansas on Tuesday night,” Haith said.

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