Missouri men's basketball opened Southeastern Conference play with lackluster offense its first two times out, scoring 59 points in a pair of losses.
After the Tigers’ outburst Saturday night against Florida, they would like to consider that lack of production a thing of the past.
Missouri jumped out to a double-digit lead midway through the first half and never looked back for a 91-75 win over the Gators in front of an announced crowd of 9,001, which in reality was much slimmer due to winter weather swirling outside Mizzou Arena.
The Tigers tied their previous season high for points in a game, with the other high-water mark coming Dec. 30 against Chicago State.
Missouri improves to 9-6 overall and 1-2 in the conference. Florida falls to 10-5 and 2-1 in the SEC.
“A tremendous effort. I think it was our best effort of the season,” Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin said. “... If shots go down, you’re a different team. For most guys, when a shot goes in, they feel good and they play differently. That’s what this was tonight.”
Missouri’s Dru Smith and Florida’s Kerry Blackshear Jr. tied for the individual scoring lead with 22 points each.
Javon Pickett and Mark Smith each added 14 points for Missouri, among eight total Tigers who made a 3-pointer and scored at least six points.
Missouri hadn’t scored 91 points in an SEC game since a double-overtime contest against Texas A&M in 2014. In its first season in the league (2012-13), MU scored more than 91 points twice, wins over Mississippi and Arkansas.
The Tigers shot 61.5% (32 of 52) from the field and 63.2% (12 of 19) from 3-point range in the runaway victory.
“They were in a great rhythm for 40 minutes,” Florida head coach Mike White said of Missouri. “... It wasn’t our best effort, but I think Mizzou had a lot to do with that.”
Missouri played by far its best offensive half of the season during the first 20 minutes, scoring 51 points, the most MU has ever scored in a single half of an SEC game.
Missouri made 8 of 11 attempts from 3-point range in the opening half while committing only four turnovers to lead by 15 at the break.
Xavier Pinson, who finished the game with eight points, put the home crowd into a frenzy early in the first half when he made a contested, one-handed dunk.
“To me, it was just getting the crowd involved, giving the crowd something worth their time for coming,” the 6-foot-2 guard said. “I’m going to just dunk everything now."
The Tigers eclipsed their final point total from the Kentucky and Tennessee losses on a Pickett layup with more than 16 minutes remaining in regulation.
Missouri’s next two opponents, Mississippi State and Alabama, are 1-5 combined in SEC play. The Tigers hit the road to face the Bulldogs on Tuesday night, then head to Tuscaloosa next Saturday for a matchup against the Crimson Tide.
Missouri freshman guard Mario McKinney Jr. has been indefinitely suspended from the team, the program confirmed.
McKinney was still listed on the Tigers’ official online roster as of late Saturday night. The St. Louis native played in seven games this season, averaging 2.6 points and eight minutes per appearance.
“He’s not a part of the team right now, so I’ll leave it at that,” Martin said of McKinney.