RALEIGH, N.C. - Missouri coach Frank Haith learned how his 25th-ranked Tigers would respond both to a loss and to a hostile road environment Saturday night.
Jabari Brown hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 55.1 seconds left to help Missouri beat North Carolina State 68-64, rallying from 10 down in the second half to win in its first true road game of the year.
“We wanted to have a game like this going into (Southeastern Conference) play,” Haith said. “Obviously we’ve had some high-level games already: UCLA, Illinois and West Virginia. But those were either at neutral sites or home games, so it was important for us to have a game like this as we move into SEC play.”
Things didn’t look promising for Missouri for much of the night. The Tigers seemed unable to stop N.C. State leading scorer T.J. Warren. They played what Haith called probably their worst half of the year in the first half. They twice trailed by 10, the second time coming with 8:56 left.
Yet the Tigers hung around until Brown and Jordan Clarkson made the late plays that put Missouri in control.
“Coach just told us to stay composed and keep playing and just do what you do,” Clarkson said. “If you knock down 3s, if you rebound, you’ve just got to keep doing that. We knew the shots were going to fall at the end.”
Brown’s 3 over Wolfpack freshman Anthony “Cat” Barber was the biggest shot in a back-and-forth final 4 minutes that saw the teams trade the lead three times before Brown’s shot made it 63-62.
Brown was 1-for-5 from behind the arc before his big shot.
“I’m comfortable,” Brown said. “I’ve got confidence in myself. Most of my shots weren’t falling, so I knew I was bound to hit a couple.”
Clarkson scored 21 points to lead the Tigers (11-1), including a three-point play with 3:51 left that gave Missouri its first lead and two free throws with 20.1 seconds left that gave Missouri a 65-62 edge.
Brown finished with 17, while Johnathan Williams hit a free throw with 3.7 seconds left to make it a two-possession game and effectively seal the win.
Missouri was coming off its first setback, a 65-64 loss against Illinois in which the Illini hit two free throws with 4.6 seconds left to spoil the Tigers’ perfect start. Beating the surging Wolfpack (9-3) was a good way to bounce back in the team’s next-to-last nonconference game before opening SEC play against Georgia on Jan. 8.
As for N.C. State, it was a hard one to swallow.
The Wolfpack had won seven straight games, including a win at SEC member Tennessee 10 days earlier. But after leading 53-43 on freshman Kyle Washington’s jumper with 8:56 left, N.C. State just didn’t do enough to keep its hold on to a likely win.
Warren, the Atlantic Coast Conference’s top scorer at 23.9 points per game, finished with 24 points on 11-for-23 shooting with 13 rebounds. But Warren didn’t score for the final 12 minutes and didn’t even take a shot in the final 5:50.
“I think we were in control,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “You’ve got to give those guys credit. They stepped up and made some big shots. They’re difficult to defend because they’re so good at going to the basket. You’re playing them to drive it because you have to respect their ability to drive the ball to the basket, then they stepped up and made some big-time 3s.”
Desmond Lee added 12 points for N.C. State while Washington scored all 10 of his points after halftime. Ralston Turner also had two key 3-pointers during those final minutes after making just one shot to that point.
The first 3 answered Clarkson’s three-point play to give N.C. State a 59-57 lead. But Clarkson hit one over Tyler Lewis at the 2:55 mark to put Missouri back up 60-59.
Turner followed with another 3 that put the Wolfpack up 62-60 with 1:39 left, only to see Brown respond with the go-ahead shot.
The Wolfpack has plenty to regret after this one. In addition to Warren’s quiet finish, Barber had a chance to put N.C. State back in front moments after Brown’s 3 only to come up short on the front end of a 1-and-1 opportunity at the foul line with 26.8 seconds left.
Clarkson followed with his two free throws to push the lead to three, then Tony Criswell added two more that made it 67-62 with 7.4 seconds left.