After Missouri’s loss at Texas A&M on Jan. 20, Tigers basketball coach Cuonzo Martin said that he looked at the loss as a learning experience for freshmen Jontay Porter and Jeremiah Tilmon, who combined for just nine points and were outplayed by an experienced Aggies frontcourt.
In Tuesday’s 62-58 win over the No. 21-ranked Aggies, Tilmon and Porter flipped the script. They held Aggies sophomore Robert Williams and junior Tyler Davis, both NBA prospects, to a combined 15 points.
“The energy was different,” Tilmon said. “It was my first time playing them last game. They got the best of me. I just slowed my mind down this game.”
Tilmon finished with 14 points, which tied his career-high, while Porter added 10 points and nine rebounds as Missouri’s winning streak reached five games.
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Aggies coach Billy Kennedy thought Tilmon was more aggressive in the first half of Tuesday’s game than in the first meeting, which helped put Davis into foul trouble early in the first half and make him a non-factor for a large part of the game.
With 11:07 left in the first half, Tilmon backed down Davis and finished a layup while drawing a foul.
Tilmon completed the three-point play and gave Missouri an 11-10 lead. Tilmon, a 51 percent free-throw shooter on the season, went 6 for 9 from the stripe Tuesday, which graduate transfer Kassius Robertson said was huge.
The Tigers handled Davis and Williams differently from a defensive standpoint, as they double-teamed both players more frequently than they did in College Station.
Martin was mostly pleased with Tilmon’s performance but noted that he missed eight shots, with four of them being considered bad shots.
“I think with him it takes time for whatever it is,” Martin said. “He brought the practice to the game. In practice you can call timeout, you can reset. He was able to carry the assignments out from practice to the game. Now the key is to try and do that next game.”
Porter was 4 for 13 from the field and hit some key shots to sustain Missouri’s lead. The Tigers led by as many as 14 in the second half but almost gave up the lead after the team started settling for jump shots. Porter missed several wide-open shots, which Martin was fine with because he thought most of his misses were on good looks.
Martin said he thought both Porter and senior wing Jordan Barnett, who had 15 points, were both hesitant at times to shoot, which he said play a part in the Aggies’ run.
“Those shots go, it’s a different game,” Martin said.