Jontay Porter, along with 27 points from senior Kassius Robertson, helped spark Missouri to a 75-69 win over Ole Miss on Tuesday night.
Missouri men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin has been asking freshman Jontay Porter to be more aggressive. He wants Porter looking to score.
Porter, a talented and willing passer, put together his most well-rounded game of the season, scoring 18 points, pulling down 13 rebounds and adding five blocks and four assists against Mississippi.
"(Porter) loves to pass it, facilitate, it’s fun to have him aboard,” Martin said on the SEC Network telecast.
Porter, along with 27 points from graduate senior Kassius Robertson, helped spark Missouri to a 75-69 win over the Rebels on Tuesday night after a slow start.
The win marks Missouri's first back-to-back road victories as a member of the Southeastern Conference. The last time Missouri won consecutive conference road games was in 2012, when the Tigers beat Oklahoma on Feb. 6 and Texas A&M on Feb. 18 while in the Big 12.
This milestone win didn’t come without its fair share of first-half drama.
Coming off two straight wins and playing arguably their best basketball since the SEC slate began, the Tigers (16-8, 6-5) came out of the gates sluggish.
Many watching from home couldn’t see the start, though. The SEC Network was still showing the Alabama-Mississippi State game, which tipped off at 6 p.m. but ran late. When it finally turned over to the Missouri-Mississippi game, the Tigers were down 11-0.
After four missed baskets and four turnovers, the Tigers, who just jumped back into Joe Lunardi’s projected NCAA Tournament field, were in the middle of a nightmarish start.
“We got off to a slow start for whatever reason. I don’t know, we didn’t move like we needed to move,” Martin said. “The focus was to try and pound the ball inside to get Jeremiah (Tilmon) going and make those guys defend. Our motion movement wasn’t great.”
In just five minutes, Missouri erased all proof of that deficit. Two Porter free throws with 9:20 to play in the half gave Missouri its first lead. While Porter and Robertson stood out, Missouri’s first-half success came on the back of its improved ball movement.
The Tigers, who outscored the Rebels (11-13, 4-7) by 20 in the final 15 minutes of the first half, shot 53 percent from the field and 50 percent from deep. They assisted on 10 of their 15 first-half field goals.
Kevin Puryear and Jordan Geist were a big part of that offense, as each also scored in double figures. Puryear had 12 points and six rebounds, while Geist had 10 points and six assists. Neither Puryear nor Geist had a turnover.
After taking a 40-31 lead into halftime, Missouri cooled off. The Tigers shot just 36 percent in the second half.
The Rebels took the lead back on a Deandre Burnett jump shot with 10:36 left in the game.
Burnett, Mississippi's leading scorer, had just five points. The Rebels were led by Terrence Davis, who finished with 20 points.
Mississippi pushed its lead to four points on the next possession. Then, right on cue, Robertson answered.
Whenever Missouri has needed a basket this season, it seems more often than not that Robertson has made the play. He scored six straight points to tie the game at 55 with 8:15 left.
Jordan Barnett, who scored a season-low two points, hit two free throws to give Missouri a 62-61 lead with 5:30 left in the game. While Missouri didn’t expand that lead past four until the final minute, its ability to knock down free throws sealed the game.
During a win against Kentucky on Saturday, the Tigers made 16 of 19 second-half free throws. On Tuesday, Missouri made 17 of 20 in the game and eight of 10 down the stretch to hold off the Rebels.
For the third straight game, Missouri held off a late run.
And in the process, the Tigers placed themselves in a four-way tie for fourth in the SEC standings.
MICHAEL PORTER JR.: Martin said after the game that he “wouldn’t be shocked” if Michael Porter Jr. plays again this season.
Martin added that Porter Jr. is not practicing right now, but is working with strength and conditioning coach Nicodeumus Christopher.
“He’s doing agility work, bouncing the ball, but nothing at practice,” Martin said. “I wouldn't be shocked if I saw him on the floor, and I’m not saying that, because he hasn't practiced or anything, so don't misinterpret that or anything. He is fighting hard to get on the floor, and he is looking good, his body is great. He’s actually gotten bigger.”
Porter Jr., the nation’s top recruit, has not played since being taken out two minutes into the Tigers’ season opener against Iowa State. He had back surgery in November and has been rehabbing since then.