As a six-and-a-half-point underdog, Missouri went into a tough environment in Pittsburgh and came out victorious as the Tigers held off the Panthers for a 71-64 victory.
The second half belonged to the Tigers. After Pittsburgh regained the lead less than four minutes into the final 20 minutes with a 7-0 run, Missouri’s offense and defense took off, propelling the Tigers to outscore Pitt 29-20 the rest of the way.
An Anthony Robinson II bucket and a foul gave the momentum back to the Tigers while Noah Carter and Sean East II pushed Mizzou’s advantage to six following the under-12 timeout.
Defensively, Connor Vanover showcased his best stretch in a black and gold uniform, collecting a block, a steal and three of his seven rebounds in the second half. His 7-foot-5 length made it difficult for Pitt players to get a clean shot off. Vanover’s impressive performance was in response to Dennis Gates demoting him to the scout team’s starting center over the past two days.
“He wasn’t afraid of the accountability that I had for him. I said if you’re not going to give us what we need, then I’m not going to play you and he said okay coach,” Gates said.
It’s safe to say Vanover took the criticism well.
“I wasn’t going to not hold him accountable,” Gates said. “What I appreciate the most is that the young man allows himself to be held accountable. He didn’t bark, he didn’t fuss, he didn’t bite. He didn’t have a bad attitude. He came and gave his very best on the scout team and we saw a reflection of that in the game.”
With the lead in the second half, Missouri kept its composure while the Panthers chased the Tigers on the scoreboard. But behind its veteran leaders, MU never relinquished its lead, which rewarded a sixth win and more impressively, a 2-0 road start against Power Six schools.
“I challenged our guys to come out and play 40 minutes of basketball and they answered that expectation,” Gates said. “It started in our postgame when we played against Loyola. We won the game but our guys were still incomplete with that feeling.”
Pitt cut it to a single possession as Blake Hinson caught the hot hand, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers with under three to play. But Caleb Grill, who finished with 10 points and five rebounds, responded on the other end with a tough layup at the basket. Grill was another player removed from the starting lineup, but like Vanover, his response helped generate winning basketball.
“Caleb Grill is a big-time human being, a great kid, unbelievable,” Gates said. “He knew what we needed. He’s one of our better and more efficient rebounders at the guard spot and he was fighting for some of those touches on that end.”
The Panthers gave once last hoorah, but Nick Honor, who didn’t score all night, tossed an alley-oop pass to Vanover with…
Read More: Mizzou Hoops steals a 71-64 victory at Pittsburgh in the ACC-SEC Challenge 2023-11-29 03:43:32