Missouri uses hot shooting stretch to defeat St. John’s
Missouri canned eight 3-pointers in the final 12 minutes to turn a back-and-forth game into a 90-82 victory over St. John’s on Friday in an Advocare Invitational semifinal at Orlando.
Senior forward Jordan Bennett scored 19 points, graduate transfer guard Kassius Robertson posted 17 and freshman forward Jontay Porter added 16 off the bench for Missouri (5-1), which will face the winner of Friday’s UCF-West Virginia semifinal in Sunday night’s championship game. The Tigers finished 14 of 27 from 3-point range, far better than their 33.6 percent showing entering the game.
Sophomore guard Shamorie Ponds delivered a career-high 31 points for St. John’s (5-1), which will play in the third-place game Sunday. Sophomore guard Justin Simon approached a triple-double with nine points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
Midway through the first half, Missouri turned a tight game into a 37-21 bulge. During the Tigers’ 23-8 blitz over an eight-minute stretch, junior forward Kevin Puryear scored seven points early and Barnett capped it with nine points.
Missouri’s spree only served to fuel Ponds, who reeled off 10 points in the final six minutes of the half to pull St. John’s within 42-36 at the break. Ponds added the first basket of the second half as the Red Storm picked up where they left off.
Senior swingman Bashir Ahmed (17 points) and Simon cashed 3-pointers to pull St. John’s even, then Chris Mullen’s squad kept going. When Ahmed buried back-to-back 3-pointers — one set up by Simons and the other by Ponds — St. John’s owned a 58-50 lead with 12:20 to go.
After that 24-point swing, the pendulum resumed swinging the other way. Robertson hit consecutive 3-pointers to regain a 59-58 lead for the Tigers with 10:13 left, which set a riveting stretch where the lead changed hands seven times in five minutes.
Missouri finally asserted control in the final four minutes as Porter hit two 3-pointers and Robertson added a 3-pointer and a layup to pull the Tigers up 83-75 with 1:56 to go.