Jeremiah Tilmon’s first two shots Tuesday night were midrange jump shots. They both clipped the rim but never looked like they would drop through the net.
The 6-foot-10 freshman forward isn’t known for his jump shot. Tilmon is 252 pounds but as athletic and talented around the basket as anybody on the floor with him.
At times this season, he’s shown every bit of his potential to be an NBA player. Jan. 20, when Missouri traveled to Texas A&M for the teams' first matchup, wasn’t one of those times. He fouled out and finished with nine points.
On Tuesday against Tyler Davis and Robert Williams, one of the best post combos in the Southeastern Conference, Tilmon was the best post player on the Mizzou Arena floor.
He finished with 14 points, three rebounds, two blocks and just three fouls. His bounce-back game helped Missouri top No. 21 Texas A&M 62-58.
“I just thought the energy was different,” Tilmon said. “It was my first time playing them last game. I just slowed my mind down this game, went out there and played ball.”
The win didn’t come without its fair share of late drama, much like Saturday’s game against Mississippi State.
Missouri led by 14 with 9:51 left in the game, but again the result came down to inbounding the basketball. Jontay Porter passed the ball, and Kassius Robertson dropped the pass. Williams, a 6-10 forward, missed a layup over Jordan Geist, Missouri’s 6-foot-2 guard, and Porter grabbed the rebound sealing the win.
“Now we can’t inbound the ball late in games for some reason,” Robertson said. “That’s our new problem. We have to fix that.”
Again, Missouri grabbed a victory from what could’ve been disaster and pushed its win streak to five games.
While that was the biggest play of the game, maybe the biggest play of the first half came on a foul call.
The biggest strike against Tilmon’s game this season has been his foul trouble. Tilmon commits 7.5 fouls per 40 minutes, according to KenPom.com. He’s fouled out in seven games this season.
But this time the foul wasn't on him, it was on Davis.
With Missouri down 10-8 with 11:47 left in the first half, Tilmon went with a drop step and scored inside over Davis. Davis was called for his second foul and went straight to the bench.
On top of getting Davis in foul trouble early, Tilmon's three-point play gave Missouri an 11-10 lead.
“Getting Tyler Davis in foul trouble was a big factor in the first half,” Texas A&M coach Bill Kennedy said.
Tilmon’s free throw capped a 7-0 run by the Tigers. The Aggies responded with a D.J. Hogg jump shot to take the lead back, but Jordan Barnett answered with a 3-pointer.
Barnett and Tilmon were two of Missouri’s four players to finish in double figures Tuesday. Kassius Robertson led with 16 points. Barnett had 15, Tilmon had 14 and Porter added 11.
In the first half, when Missouri struggled to get much offense going, Tilmon and Barnett came up big, combining to score 19 of Missouri’s 29 first-half points.
Asked if Tuesday was the most confident he has been, Tilmon said, “I just went out there and played ball.”
It was a bonus for Missouri, because it was in the middle of a five-minute field-goal drought. A Tilmon dunk got Missouri back on track in the first half. Barnett followed with a layup and pushed Missouri’s lead to six points.
What allowed Missouri to stay in the lead despite its shooting drought was Texas A&M also struggling on offense.
The Aggies, who had scored 80 points or more in their previous four games, went on a six-minute scoring drought in the first half.
“Their defense was much better than some of the teams we played recently,” Kennedy said.
Missouri’s offense got going by the end of the first half, as a Porter fadeaway gave the Tigers a 29-21 lead heading into the break.
Tilmon scored the first points of the second half, but the Aggies went on a run of their own.
Texas A&M cut Missouri’s lead from 10 to five by the 17:42 mark of the second half. Then Robertson came up big.
Robertson, the SEC Player of the Week for the second straight week, hit his first 3-pointer of the game with 17:25 left, ending the Aggies' run.
He made his second with 15:42 left in the game to stretch the Tigers' lead to eight. He doubled his first-half point total in 4 minutes, 18 seconds.
“I never really worry. We were up eight or nine at halftime, so I wasn’t worried about what my numbers were,” Robertson said. “I’m always confident in my shot.”
Robertson scored 13 points in the second half.
Missouri led by 14 with 9:51 left in the game. Then Texas A&M made its comeback.
In the process, Tilmon bounced back from his performance in College Station. That loss was part of Missouri’s three-game losing streak.
It’s since turned that into a five-game winning streak and has shown Tilmon’s progression, as well.
“His growth as a basketball player, that’s what you will see night in and night out if he didn’t have the situation with foul issues. That takes a lot out of you,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said. “You start thinking about it, and it becomes who you are. He has to grow past that.”