ST. LOUIS (AP)Kobe Brown set career highs with 31 points and eight assists, and D’Moi Hodge added 20 points to lead Missouri to a 93-71 victory over No. 16 Illinois in their annual neutral site contest Thursday night.
Brown’s 31 points were the most in school history against Illinois.
”I approached it like every other game,” Brown said. ”I just wanted to come out and win, to just come out on top as a team. The ball went in for me tonight, so I’m happy for that, but I just want to win.”
Terrence Shannon Jr. scored 22 points and Matthew Mayer added 16, but Illinois (8-4) has dropped two of three contests since upsetting then-No. 2 Texas on Dec. 6 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
”I was horrible,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. ”As a coach, getting our guys prepared, I didn’t do a very good job. They out-toughed us. They out-fought us. They took our ball. They out-executed us.”
DeAndre Gholston added 15 points and Ronnie DeGray III had 10 for Missouri (11-1), which scored 33 points off 17 Illinois turnovers while the Illini managed 10 points off 10 Tigers turnovers.
”Whenever you can score points without having to run plays and using the strategy we had going into the game, that just makes the load a whole lot easier,” Missouri coach Dennis Gates said. ”We can score off defense, score off the other team. It’s like give-me points.”
Missouri scored the first six points. Illinois recovered to take a 12-10 lead, but that was the last lead of the night for the Illini.
Missouri then outscored Illinois 41-15 for the remainder of the first half, including 15-0 and 10-0 runs.
”It’s tough because I know we can be a really good team,” Shannon said. ”We haven’t shown that recently. Coach said a lot of it is on him, but it’s us, too. We’re the ones going out there and play, and it starts with me being one of the leaders on the team. I’ve got to get the team better and ready to play.”
Missouri opened up its largest lead of the night when Hodge hit a layup to put the Tigers up 76-41 with 12:14 remaining in the second half.
”I don’t think we played well,” Gates said. ”I’ll continue to challenge my guys on executing the things we need to execute. For a full 40 minutes, we did not play well, and I’ll continue to say that. We’re obviously excited about the direction we’re going, but there are small things that you may not see with the naked eye that I see that we did not execute in a great way.”
The announced attendance of 18,452 is the first sellout in this matchup in St. Louis since 2017. The teams faced each other in Columbia, Missouri in 2020 without fans in attendance due to COVID-19.
Illinois: The Illini continue to struggle to find offense, with the returning players on Underwood’s squad accounting for just 13.9% of Illinois’ scoring last season.
Missouri: The Tigers finished non-conference play with an 11-1 record under first-year coach Gates, with their only loss coming to No. 4 Kansas on Dec. 10.
Illinois: Hosts Bethune-Cookman next Thursday in its last non-conference game before resuming Big Ten play.
Missouri: Hosts No. 19 Kentucky on Wednesday to open SEC play.
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