COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Jeremiah Tilmon scored 19 points and Missouri fended off a second-half comeback attempt to defeat Vanderbilt 77-67 Saturday night.
As the contest crept under four minutes with Vanderbilt down just five points, Missouri freshman Torrence Watson drilled a 3-pointer with the shot clock expiring. Jordan Geist knocked down a trey of his own on the next possession to put the Tigers up by 68-59.
Missouri (11-9, 2-6 Southeastern Conference) set the tone on offense in the first half, shooting 48.4 percent from the field. Tilmon and three Missouri freshmen — Watson, Javon Pickett and Xavier Pinson — led the charge, scoring 29 of the Tigers' 37 first-half points. Tilmon compiled his highest points total since Dec. 18, when he scored 23 against Xavier.
Vanderbilt (9-12, 0-8) struggled in the first half, shooting just 34.8 percent and missing all 10 of its 3-point attempts. But a couple of hot stretches — including a mid-half 11-0 run to cut Missouri's lead to three — helped the Commodores stay close down the stretch.
Aaron Nesmith scored 19 points and Saben Lee added 15 for Vanderbilt. But those were the only two who could find rhythm, and the Commodores couldn't produce enough offense to complete the comeback.
The Tigers entered the contest averaging 17 turnovers per game in conference play. But Missouri gave the ball up just nine times against Vanderbilt. Its first turnover did not come until the 6:08 mark in the first half. The Tigers now move to 8-0 this season when committing fewer turnovers than their opponent.
Vanderbilt: Chalk this one up as another close loss in the midst of a nasty nine-game losing streak for the Commodores. After starting the season 9-3, Vanderbilt is having a difficult time finding ways to win.
Missouri: It wasn't easy, but the Tigers took care of business in a game they needed to win. Missouri had lost six of its previous seven games, so a victory against the conference cellar-dweller was crucial.
Vanderbilt stays on the road to face Arkansas on Tuesday.
Missouri visits No. 1 Tennessee on its home court Tuesday.