COLUMBIA, Mo. - The Davidson Wildcats played a daunting regular-season schedule. They had also played in the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons. So they weren't going to be scared coming into Mizzou Arena for a National Invitation Tournament game.
Davidson - which played Duke, Virginia, Wichita State, North Carolina and New Mexico during its non-conference slate - was more than ready for the Missouri Tigers.
It took a 13-point second-half rally from second-seeded Missouri behind Jabari Brown's 30 points to defeat pesky seventh-seeded Davidson 85-77 on Tuesday night. The Tigers improved to 2-8 all-time in NIT games.
"I thought our guys competed their (behinds) off," Missouri head coach Frank Haith said. "Even when we got down 13, we were playing hard. Davidson's a really good ball club. They've played everybody. They beat Georgia at Georgia, they took (North) Carolina to overtime. This is a heck of a win for us."
Missouri played with just seven scholarship players Tuesday night. Freshmen guards Wes Clark and Shane Rector were suspended following their arrests for marijuana possession, while senior forward Tony Criswell remained absent for a violation of team rules.
"It was shorthanded, so I was so proud of how hard our guys played," Haith said.
Two-time Southern Conference Player of the Year De'Mon Brooks put on a clinic in the low post - a 6-footer he shot over the backboard the lone exception - while scoring 29 points to lead Davidson.
"He's a very special player, and he'll go down in the history of Davidson baskeball as one of the greats," Davidson head coach Bob McKillop said.
It was a pretty even first half until Davidson used a 10-1 surge to go up 29-22 with 6:55 to go before halftime. Missouri scored the next seven points but couldn't take the lead.
"They really try to zap you early," Haith said.
Missouri's Danny Feldmann, a Helias High School graduate, notched his first points of the season on a putback with nine seconds to go before the intermission, but Davidson's Chris Czerapowicz canned a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to give the Wildcats a 41-37 edge heading to the locker room.
Feldmann finished the game with four points on 2-of-3 shooting and grabbed four rebounds. The reserve forward played 22 minutes after playing just 19 minutes combined throughout the season.
Davidson opened the second half with a 13-4 run to force a Missouri timeout, bookended by 3-pointers by Tyler Kalinoski, to give the Wildcats a 54-41 edge with 16:50 left.
"Just knowing that there's no 13-point play," Missouri senior Earnest Ross said. "Trying to take each four minutes by a section, and just trying to win each four minutes."
Missouri's Big Three - all 6-foot-5 with "NBA bodies" according to McKillop - took over from there. The trio combined for 30 points in the final half. Ross tallied 16 points, while Jordan Clarkson had 15.
Missouri slowly crept back into the game. The Tigers got within 63-59 on a free throw from Brown with 8:36 left. Then came a 3 from Clarkson that cut the deficit to 65-64 with 7:15 to go. A conventional three-point play from Johnathan Williams III gave Missouri its first lead since 21-19 with 6:05 remaining, as the Tigers went ahead 69-67.
Brooks gave Davidson a 72-71 lead with a three-point play, but Brown canned a pair of free throws on Missouri's next possession and the Tigers led the rest of the way. Ryan Rosburg followed with a conventional three-point play to put the Tigers up by four. Davidson got within two, but Missouri scored the next five points and led by multiple possessions the rest of the way.
Tyler Kalinoski added 16 points for Davidson (20-13), while Czerapowicz added 10. Davidson, which came into the game shooting 38 percent from 3-point range, hit just 31 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc, including 28.6 percent in the second half.
"I thought we fought very, very hard," McKillop said. "It's the nature of this team, the nature of this program."
Missouri (23-11) advances to the second round of the NIT to take on the Southern Mississippi-Toledo winner. The Tigers will host that game Sunday at a time to be determined.