No. 11 Kentucky Outlasts Missouri Despite Brown’s Big Day

Story By Cody Mroczka
Photos by Tim Nwachukwu

Jabari Brown (32) had a career game against Kentucky, scoring 33 points.

Jabari Brown (32) had a career game against Kentucky, scoring 33 points.

COLUMBIA –Jabari Brown didn’t want to talk about his career-high 33-point game. He didn’t want to talk about the sheet of ice that covered Columbia on Saturday afternoon, although no one asked. He was on fire. At least, he was on the court.

The Missouri guard sat at the press table, eyes sinking, and answering in his usual modest tone following Missouri’s 84-79 loss to No. 11 Kentucky at Mizzou Arena.

He wanted to talk about one of the few mistakes he had made all day on the court. With Missouri trailing 80-77 and the shot clock running down, Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison beat Brown off the dribble for a layup with 20 seconds remaining.

“That last play I didn’t get a stop, he scored a bucket,” Brown said. “It’s tough, I’m kind of feeling that right now.”

Brown said this despite a 33-point effort, the most by a Tiger since Thomas Gardner scored 40 points against Kansas back in 2006.

The soft-spoken transfer was clearly upset with himself, despite almost bringing the Tigers back from a 16-point deficit

with about 15 minutes remaining in the game.  Brown finished 10 of 17 from the field — including a huge tomahawk dunk over Kentucky forward Julius Randle, a 6-foot-9-inch future NBA lottery pick — and 10 of 12 from the free-throw line.

Fellow guard Jordan Clarkson poured in 28 points of his own. The Brown-Clarkson tandem gave Kentucky’s star-studded lineup of former McDonald’s All-Americans all they could handle, but ultimately the more balanced team won.

“Kentucky deserves a lot credit, they played well,” Missouri coach Frank Haith, said. “Obviously they made more plays to win the game.”

It sounds simple, but it’s also true. For the most part, it was fast-paced, back-and-forth action with Kentucky making more plays down the stretch to get the win. Every time Missouri made a small run to close the gap, Kentucky had an answer. The Tigers only lead came from the first basket of the game, coincidentally made by Brown and assisted by Clarkson.

The loss puts the Tigers at 16-5 overall and 4-4 in the Southeastern Conference. The Wildcats improved to 16-5 overall and 6-2 in the SEC.

“What (Haith is) doing is he’s playing through two or three guys,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said, “And those two or three are as good as anybody in our league.

Unfortunately, it was the lack of balance that hurt the Tigers the most. Earnest Ross, a regular contributor in the scoring department, had a tough game and only played five minutes in the first half due to early foul trouble. He still finished third on the team in scoring with eight points.

On the other side, Kentucky had an impressive distribution of scoring with four freshmen posting in the double digits. Forward James Young lead the way with 21 points and guard Aaron Harrison contributed 20 points for the Wildcats.

When the game got close, the Wildcats had more options with so many players being effective on both sides of the ball.  Missouri had to lean on Brown and Clarkson and the Wildcats eventually figured that out.

Haith and the Tigers know they can’t dwell too much on this hard-fought loss with a trip to Florida scheduled early next week.

“Every loss is tough, especially at home,” Brown said. “We’ve got to bounce back, we got a No. 3 team coming up on Tuesday in their house.”

After playing at Florida on Tuesday, the Tigers are scheduled to play at Ole Miss on Saturday and return to Mizzou Arena to play Arkansas on Thursday, Feb. 13.

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