A bad back and a 7-footer couldn’t stop Jordan Geist on Sunday.
Missouri’s point guard, previously ridiculed for his late-game shooting, carried Missouri to a 64-62 overtime victory over Central Florida at Mizzou Arena. Geist hit an off-balance three-pointer with time expiring to send the game to overtime and finished with 18 points. Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said Geist has barely practiced lately because of a back injury.
The Tigers (4-3) overcame a poor offensive performance in the first half and foul trouble from Jeremiah Tilmon.
For the game’s first 10 minutes, Missouri’s offense looked respectable. The Knights opened the game in a 2-3 zone, which forced MU to shoot threes, or meet 7-foot-6 Knights center Tacko Fall in the lane. Missouri raced out to a 9-2 lead behind threes from Mark Smith and Geist.
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Fall’s presence eventually caught up to Missouri. He blocked Kevin Puryear’s shot twice in the first half and helped draw Tilmon into foul trouble early in the first half. Fall finished the game with six blocks and six points. The Tigers’ offense had no inside presence throughout the first half and struggled to score with Tilmon on the bench.
“He alters so many shots he’s hard to get shots off,” Martin said of Fall. “I thought we were passive in flashing the middle of the zone more than anything.”
Halfway through the first half, a 9-0 run by UCF cut MU’s lead to 16-15. The Tigers lost the lead for good after UCF’s leading scorer, B.J. Taylor, hit a pair of free throws with nine minutes left. Taylor had six points in the first half, all from the free-throw line.
Taylor picked up his second foul with eight minutes left in first half, giving Missouri a chance to climb back into the game. Instead, the Knights outscored MU 7-2 with Taylor off the floor. Missouri missed 12 of its final 13 shots in the first half and went more than seven minutes without scoring. Martin said he wasn’t upset with MU’s shot selection during the scoring drought but thought his team effort’s was an issue. Mitchell Smith’s tip-in with 3 seconds left in the half ended the drought and sent Missouri into halftime down 27-21.
Like it has throughout the season, Missouri came out of halftime with a run. The Tigers got threes from Geist and Javon Pickett and took the lead with a 12-2 run. Pickett finished with 13 points, four rebounds and three assists. Missouri also benefited from the return of Tilmon, who was able to hold his own against Fall in the post, and give MU some scoring inside. Aubrey Dawkins, son of Knights’ coach Johnny Dawkins, responded with some baskets to keep the Knights in the game, with a pair of threes.
Mitchell Smith hit a three from the corner opposite MU’s bench with seven minutes left to tie the score at 48-48. Pickett and Tilmon added baskets in the pain to extend MU’s lead to four, with 4:30 left, prompting UCF to call timeout. Fall tied the game for UCF at 52-52 with 3:24 left, setting up for another tight finish, such as Missouri’s loss to Temple the previous game. UCF’s Terrell Allen hit a three with 1:12 to put the Knights ahead before Geist stole the inbound to cut the lead to two.
Dawkins hit a pair of free throws with 15 seconds left after MU turned the ball over on a failed inbounds play to put UCF up 57-54. He led all scorers with 22 points.
At the end of regulation, UCF was anticipating for MU to run a play for Geist or Mark Smith because of their three-point shooting. Geist, who missed a three at Arkansas and had the ball stolen vs. Florida for a pair of losses last season, appeared to be looking for Mark Smith, but he was tightly covered. Martin said the play didn’t go as planned, which lead to Geist’s leaning, fadeaway three to tie the game.
“There were some things that were supposed to happen but that’s how it happens most of the time,” Geist said. “Give them credit, they played good defense.”
Mizzou and the Knights kept pace with each other in overtime before Tilmon faked out Fall underneath the basket to give MU the lead for good with 1:35 remaining.
Tilmon finished with 10 points and had the best plus/minus on the team at plus-17, showing how big of a difference he made for MU.
Missouri’s next game is at 7 p.m. Tuesday against Texas-Arlington at Mizzou Arena.