ST. LOUIS — Whatever momentum Missouri men’s basketball gained from its win against Utah last weekend evaporated in rapid fashion Wednesday night.
The heat from Illinois’ shooting was the culprit.
In its second primetime rivalry game of the season, Missouri was blown away in the Braggin’ Rights contest by the Illini during an 88-63 defeat at the Enterprise Center.
Illinois sizzled early and again out of halftime. A 21-1 run by the Illini put the Tigers down and out for the count as Illinois star Kofi Cockburn ripped into Missouri in the post and a group of shooters hit bullseye after bullseye from beyond the arc.
“Stay the course,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said as a message to fans after the disappointing outing. “We will continue to get better. We will continue to grow.”
Missouri made a dent late in the first half with an 11-0 run, but that was the last real sign of life the Tigers had before Illinois scored 48 second-half points.
“I thought we were the best team today,” said Illinois coach Brad Underwood, whose team improves to 9-3. “We found ways to counter.”
The loss sends the Tigers into Southeastern Conference play at 6-6, and they face an immediate challenge with a visit to Kentucky next week.
Allowing teams to have chances from 3-point-range works when the opponent doesn’t have a myriad of sharpshooters.
Illinois, however, has Trent Frazier, Jacob Grandison and Alfonso Plummer.
The Illini started the game 4-for-4 from the perimeter and finished the game shooting 12-for-25 from deep range.
“They can make shots, you have to give them credit there,” Martin said.
Missouri was daring Illinois to shoot early, and even when the Tigers contested 3-pointers, it wasn’t enough.
Illinois finished the game shooting 48% from 3-point range. Missouri couldn’t keep up in any regard, finishing the game shooting just 36.5% from the floor and 26% from beyond the arc.
“We were giving up a lot of open looks,” Missouri’s Kobe Brown said. “We’ve got to fix that.”
No answer for Kofi
Cockburn finished the first half with 10 points and eight rebounds and at times was an impact by merely existing.
Against Utah, Brown was the clear aggressor, scoring 27 points. On Wednesday night, he was limited to floaters, jumpers and runners in the lane.
Missouri was able to get Cockburn out of position by having Brown, whom Cockburn was guarding, play at the perimeter. Cockburn would follow up to the top of the key, but that only led to a couple of layups.
Cockburn was playing with a mismatch for most of the night, too. Brown was guarding the behemoth and did well. But when Cockburn was doubled up, he would find a kick-out pass for a 3-pointer.
When the game got out of hand in the second half, Cockburn was flying around the post and throwing down dunks as he pleased.
He finished the game tearing into Missouri for 25 points and 14 rebounds, and exited to a standing ovation with nine minutes left.
Brazile’s defensive gem
There wasn’t much to highlight defensively for Missouri, but Trevon Brazile showcased what makes him special.
His six blocks on the night were the 10th-most in a single game in program history. Brazile also scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds.
The freshman showed his versatility guarding at the perimeter and in the post. He even recorded three straight blocks on Cockburn in the second half.
Brazile could develop into a fixture if he develops a post game and adds muscle.
No love lost for Pickett
Illinois fans have a good memory. They remember Javon Pickett as the star in rivalry games and made a point to boo the senior as he was introduced.
Illini fans remember how the Belleville-East alum originally signed with Illinois, only to back out and head to Missouri after a coaching change.
Illinois made a point to stymie Pickett during the game, too.
Pickett finished with three points, as Illinois took away his ability to create offense off the dribble. It was that kind of night for Missouri.
Chris Kwiecinski is the sports editor for the Columbia Daily Tribune, overseeing University of Missouri and Boone County sports coverage. Follow him on Twitter @OchoK_ and contact him at CKwiecinsk@gannett.com or 435-414-3261.
This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: Mizzou basketball drops Braggin’ Rights rivalry game to Illinois