Austin Reaves, No. 8 Oklahoma Beat No. 9 Missouri in 2021 NCAA TournamentMarch 21, 2021
For the second consecutive tournament, the Oklahoma Sooners have advanced out of the No. 8/No. 9 game for a potential tip against a No. 1 seed following a 72-68 back-and-forth defeat of No. 9 Missouri on Saturday.
Austin Reaves dropped 23 points, while Elijah Harkless recorded a double-double for Oklahoma, which is now 16-10.
For the 16-10 Tigers, Jeremiah Tilmon posted 16 points and 12 rebounds and Deivon Smith dropped 22 points in the loss.
- Austin Reaves, Oklahoma: 23 PTS, 6 AST
- Brady Manek, Oklahoma: 19 PTS, 3 REB
- Elijah Harkless, Oklahoma: 16 PTS, 10 REB
- Dru Smith, Missouri: 22 PTS, 3 STL
- Jeremiah Tilmon, Missouri: 16 PTS, 12 REB
Austin Reaves Does Double Duty
Oklahoma's tournament hopes took a hit well before tipoff.
On Wednesday, head coach Lon Kruger told reporters that De'Vion Harmon, the team's second-leading scorer, would miss the first two games of the tournament following a positive test for COVID-19 (h/t Jeff Goodman of Stadium).
Harmon, who was named an All-Big 12 honorable mention, averaged 12.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game this season. Without him, the team also struggles from deep, shooting just 29 percent from beyond the arc without him on the floor.
As expected, Austin Reaves—a first-team All-SEC honoree who led the team in points (17.7), rebounds (5.7) —led the team in the first half with nine points and three assists, though he missed both of his attempts from deep.
He understood that his role would take on even greater importance with Harmon out:
"I feel like everybody's best player at this point of year steps up, so I put that on myself to go out there and just really do whatever it is in any aspect to do whatever I can help us do to get a win," he told Eric Bailey of the Tulsa World.
Oklahoma also played particularly clean basketball in the first half, with no shooting fouls called in favor of Missouri, but the Sooners failed to capitalize on the five that came their way, with just one-of-five shooting from the line before the break.
Reaves got some help from Brady Manek to start the second half. Manek hit two threes and a pair of free throws to help Oklahoma to turn its one-point deficit into a 12-point lead by the time there were five minutes gone in the second half.
Reaves was the hero again as the Tigers built their lead back with a 12-2 run in the middle of the second half and was solely responsible for eight Sooners points in 90 seconds.
The Sooners closed on a run of their own—then staved off a push by the Tigers—to advance.
Tigers Fall Short After Late Comeback
Missouri opened fast, with a 14-7 lead in the first five minutes, but the Sooners encroached quickly and held them scoreless for four minutes and stormed back for the lead, which Mizzou quickly took back. The teams traded possessions and points for the middle part of the first half, but they ended up with Missouri leading 27-26 after one.
Both teams were evenly matched, with Mizzou holding the slight edge with 40.7 percent shooting from the field compared to Oklahoma's 39.3 percent and outshooting the Sooners from three (38.5 percent to 33.3 percent).
Mark Smith led with nine points, all of which came on three-pointers.
Missouri struggled entering the second half as the Sooners opened to a 12-2 run. The Tigers didn't score a field goal until 4:38 into the frame on a dunk from Jeremiah Tilmon.
But just as they had quickly broke open to a lead at the start of the game, the Tigers built their way back on a 12-2 run of their own to get back on top with 12 minutes left in the period.
Tilmon ended the night with his eighth double-double of the year to lead the Tigers, but his effort wasn't enough for the Tigers to overcome the late push from the Sooners.
The Sooners will advance to face either top-seeded Gonzaga—the favorites to win the national title at +175 (bet $100 to win $175), via DraftKings—or No. 16 Norfolk State, depending on the results of their game set to tip at 9:20 p.m. ET.
Missouri has five players set to join them in 2021-22, headlined by three-star center Anton Brookshire, the 16th-ranked player at his position in the class of 2021. The Missouri native will be joined by two other in-state three-star recruits in Yaya Keita and Trevon Brazile.
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