ST. LOUIS (AP) — Dru Smith scored 19 points, Javon Pickett added 17, and the Missouri Tigers beat the Illinois Fighting Illini 63-56 in the 39th Annual Braggin’ Rights game on Saturday.
Xavier Pinson also scored a career-high 14 points for the Tigers, who won their third straight game.
Ayo Dosunmu scored 21 and Kofi Cockburn added 13 for Illinois, which had its two-game winning streak snapped.
Missouri outscored Illinois 17-5 in an eight-minute span from the end of the first half into the second.
Missouri scored eight of the last 10 points of the first half. Smith scored all of the points during the spurt to give the Tigers a 26-23 halftime lead.
Smith started a 9-3 run to begin the second half with a bucket and finished it with a dish to Pinson for a 3-pointer from the corner to extend Missouri’s lead to 35-26.AD
An 8-0 spurt pushed the Tigers’ lead to double-digits. Pinson scored the first four points, and a Pickett put-back gave Missouri a 47-33 edge with 10:56 left.
Illinois was able to cut the deficit to five with a Dosunmu bucket with a minute left, but Pinson and Smith quelled the rally with free throws for the Tigers.
Illinois hit on 5 of its first 7 field goal attempts to start the game. Dosunmu hit a couple of jumpers and Giorgi Bezhanishvili drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the Fighting Illini an 11-5 lead.
Missouri started the game shooting just 3 of 13, but Pickett got the Tigers going with a pair of treys.
The Tigers defense forced two prolonged Fighting Illini scoring droughts in the first half, one of over three minutes and the other over four minutes.
Illinois maintained its lead for much of the half with Dosunmo’s 11 points, including shooting 5 of 7.AD
Missouri big man Jeremiah Tilmon sat most of the first half with two fouls and fouled out with 4:29 left in the game. But despite not having the 6-foot-10 forward’s presence, the Tigers still outrebounded Illinois — which entered the game as one of the nation’s top rebounding teams — 36-32.
Illinois: Despite dropping their second-straight to the Tigers, the Fighting Illini still leads the Braggin’ Rights series 25-14.
Missouri: After starting the month with the worst loss in recent memory to Charleston Southern on Dec. 3, the Tigers finished the month on a high by winning their second-straight Braggin’ Rights game, propelling them into SEC play.
Illinois hosts North Carolina A&T on December 29.
Missouri returns home to face Chicago State on December 30.