The Tigers aren’t getting homesick.
Mizzou men’s basketball defeated Pittsburgh 71-64 in the first ACC/SEC Challenge on Tuesday evening in Pittsburgh, marking the Tigers’ second win in two road games to start the season.
Missouri went with a new starting lineup but still went deep into its roster, finding production from the team’s main outlet on offense and showing some more versatility than in previous weeks.
Here are three takeaways as MU won on the road:
Sean East II heats up
There were reverse layups. There was a proficient 3-of-4 night from 3. And there was the ever-trustworthy teardrop.
Sean East II was a major player throughout the night for Mizzou on offense.
After the Tigers fell six points behind midway through the first half, East provided four of the Tigers’ six points on the back of a four-minute scoring drought to get his team back within a score. He later hit the 3 that gave MU a 38-35 halftime lead.
Missouri’s leading scorer with 15.4 points per game came up big again.
After Pitt put together an early 7-0 second-half run, East got to the line and made a free throw before dropping a mid-range jumper to cap an 8-0 MU response.
He shot 7-for-13 from the field, and he led the Tigers with 20 points.
The captain turned into a creator, too. He had four assists, including a — slightly short — alley-oop pass for an Aidan Shaw dunk deep into the second half to give MU an unassailable 10-point lead.
Missouri coach Dennis Gates tried something different from the jump.
Tamar Bates started his first game as a Tiger, while Aidan Shaw started for the first time this season and just the third time of the sophomore’s career.
The move comes after Gates called for more from usual starter Connor Vanover, a 7-foot-5 Oral Roberts transfer. Iowa State transfer Caleb Grill had started five of MU’s seven previous games, but he has managed just a 24.3% mark from 3. John Tonje has cracked the starting lineup four times but averaged just 9.2 minutes per game.
Some of it worked, some of it didn’t.
Bates scored 12 points, most coming in the first half. Shaw couldn’t continue his strong defensive start to the year, tabbing an early block but only managing four rebounds in 20 total minutes after.
The dropped players, meanwhile, had somewhat of a renaissance.
Grill was 4-of-8 from the field and had 10 points. Vanover was effective defensively and had eight rebounds. The Tigers outrebounded the Panthers 36-33.
The Tigers used 12 different players. Freshman Jordan Butler appeared to leave the game with a hurt shoulder.
Tonje did not play.
Offense finds spark
Bates beat the shot clock to save what looked like a dead possession. Grill hit a 30-footer — rare for the 24.3% shooter from deep. Twice the Tigers went through scoring droughts of more than 2:30 of game time. On both occasions they responded with runs.
A lot of what has hurt the Tigers — wasted possessions, poor shot selection and dead runs — didn’t bite them Tuesday.
Both Missouri and Pittsburgh take deep shots when they’re available. Pitt ranks No. 8 in the country with 30.7 attempts from 3 per game. Mizzou is No. 40 with 27.6 attempts per outing.
The Tigers weren’t necessarily defending the arc much better than in recent weeks. The Panthers consistently managed open looks, but they only shot 7-of-25 from deep, including 3-of-10 in the first half.
Mizzou held Pittsburgh to a nine-minute scoring drought down the stretch in the second half. MU, meanwhile, found shots from all over ... and made plenty to see off the Panthers.
The Tigers showed more willingness to attack the paint and get into the post, challenging Pitt up close. Even though that didn’t translate to more trips to the line, it opened up shots from deep, which MU took advantage of eight times.
The Star has partnered with the Columbia Daily Tribune for coverage of Missouri Tigers athletics.