In the second half of Missouri’s 69-60 win over No. 21 Kentucky, junior forward Kevin Puryear found senior wing Jordan Barnett in the corner, in front of the Mizzou bench.
Barnett tried for a three but the ball rimmed out. Puryear grabbed the offensive rebound and then hit Barnett on a back cut for a wide open dunk, extending Missouri’s lead to 46-38 and sending Mizzou Arena into mayhem.
The dunk was part of Barnett’s 12 points in the second half, as the St. Louis native finished with a team-high 16 points in the Tigers’ first win over the Wildcats.
Barnett’s day got him out of a small slump as the 6-foot-7 small forward scored a combined 13 points in Missouri’s two previous games against Mississippi State and Alabama. To his teammates, his ability to catch fire after a rough stretch was nothing new.
“(Barnett) is actually really good at back cutting,” Puryear said. “He’s amazing at it. He gets dunk off the back cut all the time. I knew he was going to back cut. I see it all the time in practice. I pretty much know what he’s going to do.”
In the first half, Barnett only had four points, all of which came from the free-throw line. He was 0 for 3 from the field, all attempted threes.
After halftime, Barnett got going.
He hit a three with 15:07 left, forcing Kentucky coach John Calipari to call timeout. The basket capped an 8-0 Missouri run after the Wildcats cut the Tigers’ lead to one.
Barnett hit another three two minutes later, giving Missouri a 10-point lead, and followed with his dunk shortly after.
To him, the second-half performance didn’t come from any adjustments he made at halftime. He just kept shooting.
“I hit shots,” Barnett said. “That’s how I look at it. I feel like I got the same shots in the first half. It always looks better when you’re hitting shots.”
Barnett has said throughout the season that if he hits a few shots from deep early in the game he sometimes stays behind the arc. On Saturday, despite the early misses, he continued to look for shots from all over the floor, even if a few missed.
After Missouri’s upset win over Tennessee on Jan. 17, Volunteers coach Rick Barnes, who coached Barnett during his freshman season at Texas, said his former player has always had a short memory.
Some of Barnett’s points in the second half came off shots he missed from the same spot on the floor in the first half. Puryear said Barnett never lets a slump get to him.
“I mean this in this in the nicest way possible, but Barnett just doesn’t care,” Puryear said. “He’s going to shoot the ball. He has no conscious whatsoever.”
Coach Cuonzo Martin has been hard on Barnett at times throughout the season, especially after games in which Barnett scored but wasn’t as aggressive on defense or on the boards.
Barnett on Saturday pulled down six rebounds and held Kentucky redshirt freshman guard Hamidou Diallo to eight points after he came into the game averaging around 12.
With Kentucky rallying in the final minute of the game after cutting the Missouri lead to eight, Barnett blocked Wildcats sophomore Wenyen Gabriel’s three-point attempt in the far corner with 44 seconds left. Barnett also grabbed the final rebound of the game as Kevin Knox’s jump shot rimmed out.
“He just has a style about him out there on the floor,” Martin said. “I give him credit. He’s just like this all the time. He’s flying a jet from here to Asia. He’s cruising. It doesn’t matter what happens.”