Robertson leads Missouri to 79-68 win over South Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin was happy his team opened Southeastern Conference play with a road win — and not just because the Tigers had not accomplished that in almost four years.
“We know how tough they are” to get, Martin said after Missouri’s 79-68 win over South Carolina on Wednesday night.
Especially after the Tigers’ had lost their past 32 league games on the road.
“The fact that we broke the long, SEC losing streak on the first conference game means a lot,” said Jordan Barnett, who had 19 points off four 3-pointers for Missouri (11-3, 1-0 SEC). “We still think we can get a lot better.”
Martin understood his players’ excitement over the victory after the program had not won an SEC game on the road since topping Arkansas 75-71 on Jan. 28, 2014. But the first-year coach did not want to burden his team any more with what happened before he arrived.
“The past is the past, we learn from it,” Martin said. “I know how important, how valuable it is to win road games.”
Kassius Robertson had 23 points and Jontay Porter and Barnett scored 19 apiece for Missouri.
Robertson, Porter, the freshman brother of injured star Michael Porter Jr., and Barnett combined 13 of Missouri’s 14 3-pointers. Porter set a career high for the Tigers.
Missouri’s long-range shooting took care of this one early. It had nine 3s in the opening half to build a 15-point lead and kept the pressure on South Carolina (9-5, 0-2) throughout with its long-range shooting.
It was not the home SEC debut South Carolina envisioned. Point guard Hassani Gravett missed his second straight game with a right ankle injury and a Southern ice and snow storm along the coast dropped temperatures into the 20s and kept many fans home.
The Gamecocks closed to 20-19 on Felipe Haase’s 3-pointer with 8:43 left before the half when Missouri took off on a 16-2 run to gain a stronghold it never relinquished. South Carolina got a 21-point deficit to 74-65 on Justin Minaya’s 3-pointer with 2:03 to go.
But Robertson had a layup and two foul shots to keep the Tigers out front.
Chris Silva led the Gamecocks with 18 points.
South Carolina coach Frank Martin said his team is lacking in fiery, tough-minded leaders as it had in past years with players like Sindarius Thornwell and Michael Carrera. “We don’t have any of that right now,” Martin said.
The Gamecocks dropped their first two SEC games for the first time since 2014-15.
Missouri: The Tigers came into the game with a program record through 13 games of 123 3-pointers and kept that up against the Gamecocks. Barnett, who’s made 18 3s the past five games, added three more in the opening half as Missouri opened a 16-point lead. Barnett was fouled on one of his long-range baskets and sank the free throw for a 4-point play. If Missouri remains as accurate in the SEC as it was from the outside against South Carolina, it can make some noise in the league race.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks wilted under the pressure of Missouri’s guards. South Carolina’s starting backcourt of Will Myers and Frank Booker were a combined 1-of-8 shooting in the first half for four points. The first guard off the bench, David Beatty, missed all five of his first-half shots. The Tigers in-your-face defense made it near impossible for the Gamecocks to get off crisp passes and set up open looks.
Injuries have the Gamecocks scrambling to look polished in the backcourt. Grad transfer Wesley Myers, in his first year with the Gamecocks, started at point guard for a second straight game with the injury to starter Hassani Gravett. David Beatty a freshman, was Myers backup. The two struggled at times against Missouri, combining to shoot 7 of 22 with 16 points and three assists.
Missouri’s on-target outside shooting led to an added bonus in two 4-point plays. Jordan Barnett had the first one in the opening half after getting fouled on a 3 and making the free throw. Jordan Geist turned the trick after halftime, his 4-pointer putting the Tigers ahead 43-29.
Missouri returns home to face Florida on Saturday.
South Carolina closes a two-game home stand with Vanderbilt on Saturday.
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