COLUMBIA, Mo. • Serving notice that it still has the makeup for a memorable season despite the ups and downs that had marked it to date, Mizzou toppled fifth-ranked Florida 63-60 on Tuesday at Mizzou Arena to avenge a 31-point loss last month in Gainesville.
The Tigers improved to 15-0 at home this season by overcoming a 13-point second-half deficit and managing the final minutes of the game in a way that had eluded them in a series of close losses on the road.
Before a raucous, capacity crowd of 15,061, perhaps one of the most revved-up for any game not featuring Kansas, MU improved to 19-7 overall and 8-5 in the Southeastern Conference as the Gators fell to 21-4 and 11-2 — but not until Mike Rosario’s buzzer-beating 3-point attempt from the corner aired over the rim.
In his most complete game back since returning from last month’s knee injury, Laurence Bowers led Mizzou with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Phil Pressey had 10 assists and five turnovers along with six rebounds, seven points and three steals to flip his six-assist, 10-turnover effort in the 83-52 loss Jan. 19 at Florida.
In contrast to his play there, which Florida coach Billy Donovan said Tuesday night was “crazy,” and some of his struggles down the stretch in several late Mizzou losses, Pressey had seven assists with no turnovers in the last 15 minutes, 50 seconds.
But on a night when Pressey clearly was more attuned to distributing the ball well than he had been, he also dished the credit.
“When I say everybody contributed to that win, I mean everybody,” he said. “Deep down inside, it took everybody for us to win that game.”
Florida entered the game leading the SEC in scoring defense (52.6 points a game), field-goal percentage defense (.371), 3-point shooting percentage (.497) and assist to turnover ratio (1.4), telling traits of a team that plays suffocating defense and fluid, fundamentally sound offense.
And it all coalesced early, with the Gators springing to an 18-6 lead on four 3-pointers and a flurry of MU turnovers and misfires that suggested a long night could be ahead for Mizzou.
But just as the Tigers were starting to lose contact, they hoisted themselves back into contention with nine first-half points by a rejuvenated Bowers and an 8-0 run bookended by a Jabari Brown 3 and a Keion Bell steal for a layup that cut it to 29-26 at halftime.
Florida hit seven of its first 11 from the field but just four of 18 the rest of the half as the Tigers went the opposite way to recover from a four-of-13 start and make seven of their last 13 of the half.
That momentum carried over early in the second half, when MU extended its run to 10-0 on Pressey’s two free throws to cut it to 29-28.
But the Gators found their 3-point eye again, hitting four 3s in five minutes to open the lead back up to 48-36.
A Scottie Wilbekin free throw gave the Gators their biggest lead, but Mizzou stayed afloat on back-to-back 3-pointers by Brown and Earnest Ross and went into overdrive for what became a 12-0 run by adding two Ross free throws, a fastbreak layup by Bell off a Florida turnover and a Bowers dunk from Pressey.
Presto, MU was down just one again.
A Rosario jumper and floater gave the Gators back some space at 53-48, but the Gators bungled a chance to put it away by missing the front ends of three one-and-ones and a fourth straight free throw as the Tigers stayed on their trail with two Brown free throws to make it 54-53.
Ross missed a chance to give MU its first lead after a steal on the ensuing possession, and Florida’s Kenny Boynton converted a three-point play to make it 57-53 with 3:45 left.
But the Tigers finally went ahead, 59-57, on a Brown 3 and a Pressey three-point play.
Wilbekin hit a 3, but Florida couldn’t score again after Bowers put in what proved to be the game-winning basket with 1:15 left.
After Boynton missed a 3, MU might have put it away sooner as it ran off some clock. But Ross fell and drew a traveling call after rebounding Pressey’s missed 3, giving Florida the ball back with 19.1 seconds left.
Boynton then missed another 3, and Bell accounted for the final score with his two free throws with 3.1 seconds left – making for the signature win of MU’s season.
“We really haven’t had a team win like this,” Pressey said.