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Missouri defeats Ole Miss to clinch SEC Tournament double bye

 Rory Whetstone   in Basketball

The Missouri Tigers (23-8, 11-7 Southeastern Conference) ended their regular season campaign on a high note as they won their fourth straight game, taking down Ole Miss (11-20, 3-15) by a score of 82-77 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo., on Saturday afternoon.

The Rebels put up a fight with strong performances from Jaemyn Brakefield (18 points) and James White (14 points), but the Tigers responded with high-point games of their own from seniors Kobe Brown (17 points) and Noah Carter (17 points).

Senior Day

Missouri honored nine of their seniors after their game, all of whom have made massive contributions to the team, both on and off the court.

In the first half, seniors DeAndre Gholston and Kobe Brown pushed the Tigers out to a lead. Gholston was 50% from the field and supplied Missouri with points in clutch scenarios. As always, Brown showed up big for the Tigers and pitched in nine points in the first half. He was successful from both the 3-point arc and at the rim. 

Fans voiced their happiness by chanting for Brown to come back for another season.

Meanwhile, two other important seniors, D’Moi Hodge and Noah Carter, were the second half heroes for the Tigers.

Second Half

Missouri entered the half up five, but Ole Miss responded right away in the second half with a 8-2 run. The Rebels would continue to put up a fight and make it a back-and-forth game for the majority of the game.

Ole Miss shifted gears and shot 50.3% from field goal range and 31% from 3-point land in the second, which was an improvement on making just one 3-point attempt in the first half. White led the way for the Rebels as he drained five shots, while Brakefield supplied eight makes and was also clutch from the free throw line.

Matching their intensity, the Tigers shot 61% from the field, but didn’t drive the lane too many times. Gholston had a quieter second half with only three points, but Hodge and Carter picked up where he left off, supplying 10 points each. Missouri's lack of height was visible at times both in preventing layups and creating chances in the paint.

Eventually, the Tigers pulled away with about two minutes left to secure the win.

Second half surges seem to be a trend for Missouri as they now have three straight games with a dominant second half performance.

The Tigers are also undefeated when they hit 70 points.

Dennis Gates Makes a Mark

Many criticized the Gates hire entering the season, but he quickly and effectively shut the critics down by helping Missouri to one of its greatest seasons in years.

With their 23 wins, they have reached their most wins in a season since 2013-14. They also matched their best record in history in SEC play with 11 wins.

Adding onto those achievements, they also posted their highest-scoring offense since 2011-12.

In the Future

With their win and Auburn’s win over Tennessee, Missouri clinched the 4th seed in the SEC Tournament, their highest since joining the conference. 

They begin quarterfinal play on Friday against either No. 5 Tennessee, No. 12 South Carolina, or No. 13 Ole Miss.