There was little drama for the Missouri Tigers as they defeated Incarnate Word 82-42 to open the college basketball season Wednesday at Mizzou Arena. They next host Northern Kentucky at 7 p.m. Friday.
Forward Jeremiah Tilmon led the way, scoring 16 points, grabbing seven rebounds and blocking a career-high five shots. He did well in converting his opportunities, finishing 7 of 9 from the floor as the team fed him the ball often.
Right behind Tilmon was guard Xavier Pinson. Along with his signature no-look passes, he added 15 points and five assists. He finished with just four field goal attempts, but was 8 of 11 from the free throw line. Javon Pickett added 10 points for the Tigers.
Besides a switch of Pinson for Mark Smith in the starting lineup, MU coach Cuonzo Martin stuck with the same group as the exhibition win over Central Missouri. Mark Smith joined Tilmon, Dru Smith, Kobe Brown and Pickett to begin the game.
“We made some plays, stayed aggressive,” Martin said. “We relied on defense then the offense started to come.”
As typical of a Martin-coached team, the Tigers were tenacious on defense. The visiting Cardinals shot 26.8% from the field. Their leading scorer was Drew Lutz with 16 points.
The Tigers struggled shooting from behind the arc, leading to empty possessions and a low-scoring game early on. They finished 7 for 31, missing their first seven attempts from three.
But once Mizzou turned to Tilmon, the Tigers were off. He scored eight of the Tigers’ 10 points in one stretch. MU finished with 42 points in the paint.
Martin again tinkered with lineups, with 11 players seeing the court in the first half and 14 in the game. Alex Okongo was the only one who didn’t play.
“I wouldn’t worry about the offense’s spark,” Martin said of the missed three-pointers. “My whole thing is you defend, offense will come. Defensively, we were sound. We had open looks, they just didn’t fall.”