Junior guard Dru Smith scored 19 points to lead Missouri to a 63-56 victory over Illinois in the annual Braggin’ Rights game Saturday afternoon at Enterprise Center in St. Louis.
Sophomore guard Javon Pickett, who initially signed a letter of intent with Illinois, contributed a season-high 17 points, while sophomore guard Xavier Pinson added 14 for Missouri (7-4). The Tigers held Illinois 25 points below its season average to claim the contentious border rivalry game for the second year in a row.
Sophomore guard Ayo Dosunmu posted a game-high 21 points for Illinois (8-4). Center Kofi Cockburn, who entered the game as the only freshman in the country averaging a double-double, posted 13 points and two rebounds. Illinois finished with a season-low point total as it made just 10 field goals in the final 28-plus minutes of the game.
The Illini grabbed a 19-13 lead as sophomore forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili fed Cockburn for a layup and Dosunmu picked off a Mark Smith pass for a breakaway layup with 8:26 left in the first half.
Missouri hit just four of its first 17 shots, but they rallied to grab a 26-23 halftime edge. Pinson started the Tigers’ rally by making a 27-footer with the shot clock expiring. When Smith cashed a pair of free throws with 2:54 left in the half, Missouri took a 22-21 lead — its first since the game’s early moments.
Missouri extended its lead at the outset of the second half and owned a 39-28 margin with 13:39 left when Illinois entered the bonus. The Illini quickly slashed the margin to 39-33 on two free throws by sophomore guard Alan Griffin and a 3-pointer by junior guard Trent Frazier, but the Tigers answered with eight straight capped by Pickett’s flying tip-in.
Missouri’s lead stood at 51-37 with 6:14 left. Illinois used full-court pressure to get as close as 57-52 on Dosunmu’s leaner in the lane with 59 seconds left, but Smith and the Tigers closed out the win at the free-throw line.
—Field Level Media