Missouri point guard Blake Harris streaked down the court and put up a floater, only to see it hit off the side of the rim.
Luckily for Harris, Jontay Porter came flying in for the put-back dunk to mop up the floor general’s miss and give Mizzou Arena something to cheer for on a night in which Missouri struggled mightily.
Missouri’s offense showed the need for a whole team of janitors as the Tigers struggled to put away Emporia State in a 67-62 win on Monday night.
The team looked sloppy on both ends of the floor and struggled against a Division II team while star player Michael Porter Jr. missed his third straight game while he went to see a specialist for his leg injury. MU coach Cuonzo Martin said after the game that he’s not sure if Porter will travel to Orlando, Fla., for the Advocare Invitational.
Missouri jumped out to a seven-point lead in the opening minutes of the game but saw it evaporate fairly quickly due to poor shooting all over the floor.
The Tigers shot less than 13 percent on three-pointers in the team’s loss to Utah, and saw the same result spill into Monday. Both Kassius Robertson and Jordan Barnett struggled from three, while the Hornets did the opposite. Emporia State shot 41 percent in the first half and eventually took a 25-23 lead with fewer than 4 minutes remaining before halftime.
Emporia State attacked Missouri multiple ways — whether it was from three, in the lane or simply waiting for a blown assignment to get the easy basket. Senior guard Brian Morton was all over the floor for the Hornets and hit multiple baskets to keep Missouri on its heels.
Morton, who scored 21 points in the loss, and senior forward Stephaun Limuel carried the Hornets’ offense throughout the second half by scoring in the lane and drawing fouls to get to the free-throw line.
“He’s a good player,” MU’s Kevin Puryear said of Morton. “He made plays when it counted.”
Despite Missouri’s 45-33 edge on the boards, the Tigers were unable to put the Hornets away with their post play immediately. Freshman center Jeremiah Tilmon played his first game of the season in which foul trouble wasn’t an issue and finished with a team-high 13 points and five rebounds. Tilmon had a dunk with just over 10 minutes remaining to give Missouri a 43-41 lead.
Sophomore center Reed Nikko added a lay-up while getting fouled on consecutive possessions halfway through the second half to sustain Missouri’s lead. Nikko kept up his strong play off the bench, with eight points and four rebounds.
“I thought we did a good job getting the ball inside to our bigs,” Martin said. “Making plays, making good decisions, I thought in the first half we let those guys knock too many balls out of our hands.”
Emporia State was able stay alive by doing something Missouri couldn’t — hit free throws. Missouri shot 56 percent with 15 misses, while the Hornets were 92 percent from the charity stripe.
Missouri fans weren’t able to relax until a block by Porter late in the game all but sealed the Tigers win. Along with Tilmon, Puryear finished with 13 points, while Porter had 11 points and 11 rebounds off the bench for his first career double-double.
“We definitely learned our lesson tonight,” Puryear said. “Me being in my third year and losing to some teams like that, I know what it’s like.”
The Tigers now head to Orlando for the Advocare Invitational, where they’ll face Long Beach State on Thanksgiving morning. Tipoff is set for 10:30 a.m.