Missouri notebook

Earnest Ross has last laugh in return to Auburn

Updated: 2014-01-12T00:59:58Z

By TOD PALMER

The Kansas City Star

First half

•  Key play: Junior Jabari Brown swished a 25-footer with 7 seconds remaining that put the Tigers in front 33-30 at halftime.

•  Key stat: Missouri’s 25-15 rebounding edge, which included 12 offensive boards, prevented Auburn from pulling away.

Second half

•  Key play: A deflection by freshman guard on Auburn’s inbound pass with 2.9 seconds left, iced Missouri’s victory.

•  Key stat: Missouri went 16 of 21 from the free-throw line compared with Auburn’s four-for-nine performance in the second half.

Ross returns to Auburn

Auburn fans booed every time MU senior Earnest Ross touched the ball and chanted “Auburn reject” when he went to the free-throw line, but Ross had the last laugh.

“You heard the cheers they were saying, ‘Auburn reject,’ but I think he quieted them down after he hit those free throws,” junior Jordan Clarkson said. “It was a big win for him.”

Ross, transferred to Missouri after playing at Auburn during 2009-11, hit four free throws in the final 1:34 that proved to be the difference in a 70-68 victory.

“It’s a special moment,” Ross said. “… Coming back to where I came from and just getting a W and a win with my team was very special for me.”

Ross’ teammates knew the game meant a little more.

“He was more focused,” Clarkson said. “You could see it in his eyes that he was there today on the defensive end and the offensive end, making shots and making free throws. He finished the game out for us.”

• Two seldom-used reserves, freshman Torren Jones and junior Keanau Post, turned in career performances.

Jones had a game- and career-high 11 rebounds along with a career-best four points in only 13 minutes. Post scored three points with a career-high six rebounds in 14 minutes.

“I’m setting the bar, but that’s just a starting point, and I’m trying to get better every day, trying to exceed what I did tonight and help my team out whatever way I can,” said Jones, who had only six career rebounds before Saturday.

• Senior Tony Criswell made the trip to Auburn but never made it off the bench.

“DNP because of a violation of team rules,” Coach Frank Haith said after the game.

Criswell had been suspended the first two games of the season for skipping classes, but with the university on break between semesters, it’s unclear if academics plays a role in the latest suspension.

He wasn’t alone. Auburn announced before the game that junior forward Chris Griffin had been suspended indefinitely for violating school policy.

• MU’s leading scorers, Clarkson (20 points) and Brown (15 points), have reached double figures in all 15 games this season.

It’s the longest streak to start a season for the Tigers since Kareem Rush scored 10 points or more in 21 straight games opening the 2000-01 season.

| Tod Palmer, tpalmer@kcstar.com

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