FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP)Ricky Council scored 25 points and Joseph Pinion scored 13 off the bench as No. 13 Arkansas rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat No. 20 Missouri 74-68 on Wednesday night.
The Razorbacks (12-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) didn’t lead until back-to-back fast-break buckets from Council and guard Devo Davis provided a one-point advantage with 14:24 left. Pinion followed with a 3-pointer to cap a 9-0 run. Five minutes later, Arkansas went on another run, 7-0, to build the lead to eight points.
Missouri (12-2, 1-1) had stifled Arkansas and built its lead to 17 points with its zone defense in the first half, limiting the Razorbacks to 36% shooting from the field and 2 for 12 from 3-point range.
Arkansas coach Eric Musselman injected the little-used Pinion, a shooting specialist, into the game with the Razorbacks trailing by 10. The freshman scored his 13 points on 4 of 7 shooting, including 3 of 6 from 3-point range, in a career-high 27 minutes.
”When you watch your team spot shoot, he’s an elite shooter,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said. ”The way their zone is, they have so many guys above the foul line, that deep corner was a sweet spot for somebody.”
Council, who entered as the SEC’s third-leading scorer averaging 17.9 points per game, scored 21 of his 25 in the second half.
Missouri lost its lead on the interior on the glass. The Tigers’ zone failed in the second half as Pinion’s 3-point shooting forced it toward the perimeter. Arkansas shot 62% in the final 20 minutes and outrebounded Missouri, 40-23, for the game.
Davis joined Council and Pinion in double figures for Arkansas with 10 points.
Sean East led Missouri with 13 points, while Nick Honor and Kobe Brown added 12 and 11, respectively.
”Quite frankly it was a must-win tonight for us. Maybe that had an effect of how we played the first half,” Musselman said. ”I felt like with the toughness of the league, this was a game, especially because we had a long prep time.”
Arkansas guard Nick Smith Jr. was not with the team. The projected NBA lottery pick hasn’t played since Dec. 17 against Bradley when he re-injured his right knee. An Arkansas spokesman said Smith was seeing a specialist about the injury. The freshman guard has played in five games and averaged 12.8 points this season.
Arkansas has struggled most with teams who pack in defenses, but coach Eric Musselman’s team has shown itself capable of overcoming that strategy with its athleticism.
Missouri’s loss is barely damaging. The Tigers still own wins over Illinois and Kentucky and a road loss in an SEC game to a top-15 team won’t hurt the NCAA Tournament resume.
Missouri: Hosts Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Arkansas: Travels to Auburn on Saturday.
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