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No. 18 Missouri turns its attention to Kentucky

There are few people in college basketball tougher than Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin. Among other things, he hung a loss on cancer.

So it was no surprise that when his 18th-ranked Tigers trailed TCU 82-70 with 4:40 left on Saturday in a Big 12/SEC Challenge contest, Martin called a timeout and reinforced that this wasn't the time to concede defeat.

"I never understood why teams would give up in situations like that," he said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, minutes after Missouri rallied for a wild 102-98 overtime win. "Because what's the worst thing could happen? You lose the game. So why not try to win the basketball game?"

The Tigers will try to win another game Wednesday night, albeit without all the dramatics, when they host Kentucky in a Southeastern Conference tilt in Columbia, Mo.

Missouri (11-3, 4-3 SEC) avoided its first losing streak of the season by closing regulation with a 19-7 run. Xavier Pinson's 3-pointer with 3.9 seconds left forced the extra session, and the Tigers took care of matters in OT.

Pinson finished with 36 points, the most by a Missouri player since Thomas Gardner hung up 40 on Kansas 15 years ago.

Pinson is averaging 15.1 points to lead four Tigers in double figures. Jeremiah Tilmon adds inside punch with 13.9 ppg and 8.1 rebounds, connecting on 66.1 percent of his field goal tries.

Dru Smith chips in 13 ppg and Mark Smith scores 10.4. Missouri averages 75.2 ppg despite making only 30.1 percent of its 3-pointers, but came through from distance in the end against TCU, canning 5 of 8 after Martin's timeout.

"We showed a lot of grit," Tilmon said to the Post-Dispatch. "We came together."

Meanwhile, Kentucky's season frayed a bit further Saturday when its marquee matchup with No. 5 Texas was canceled. The Wildcats' program went on a 48-hour pause because of COVID-19 concerns, with the game against Missouri bumped from Tuesday to Wednesday.

Kentucky (5-10, 4-4) hasn't played since Jan. 26, when it faded down the stretch of a 70-59 loss at No. 9 Alabama. The Wildcats led 54-52 with 4:27 left after Davion Mintz stroked a 3-pointer, but went scoreless over the next 3:47 while the Crimson Tide pumped in 10 straight points to seize control.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the outcome came down to a scenario that has become all too familiar to his team.

"The last three minutes, dudes backed away," he said. "Playing --you ready? -- not to lose vs. playing to win. We had our chances. We, again, got out-toughed. Just makes me sick."

Watching the Wildcats try to score the basketball could make anyone queasy. Kentucky makes just 41.5 percent of its field goals and only 29 percent on 3-pointers. It also doesn't pass the ball well, logging 55 more turnovers than assists.

Brandon Boston leads four Wildcats in double figures at 12.1 ppg, but makes only 36.4 percent of his field goals and is 9 of 50 on 3-pointers.

--Field Level Media

Updated February 1, 2021

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