Missouri holds off Elon 78-73
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) Free throws have been a struggle at times this season for Missouri. But when the pressure suddenly increased Thursday night, the Tigers converted.
''The bad news is we let them come back,'' coach Kim Anderson said after his team held on to defeat Elon 78-73. ''The good news is we handled it at the end.''
Missouri made all eight of its free throw attempts in the final minute after Elon used an 11-0 run to trail just 70-69 after a 3-pointer by Luke Eddy with 55.9 seconds remaining.
After the teams traded points, the Tigers' Keith Shamburger converted two free throws for a 74-71 lead with 26.6 ticks left. Elon's Tanner Samson then missed a 3-point attempt, and Montaque Gill-Caesar and Shamburger each hit two more free throws for Missouri to squelch the threat.
Johnathan Williams III and Shamburger each finished with 16 points for the Tigers (5-4), who made 24 of 30 free throw attempts after averaging 64.2 percent from the line this season.
Eddy scored a career-high 27 points off the bench and Kevin Blake added 14 for Elon (5-4), which had a two-game winning streak against Southeastern Conference opponents snapped.
''I really am happy with the way our team responded after halftime,'' Phoenix coach Matt Matheny said. ''It wasn't like we were gangbusters, but we played on our toes.''
Elon entered the matchup having won its previous three games overall, averaging 114 points in wins against non-NCAA schools on Dec. 2 and Dec. 7. But the Phoenix struggled offensively against Missouri, shooting 24 of 67 from the field.
The Tigers, on the other hand, converted 13 of 22 shots in the opening half, including 6 of 9 from 3-point range, to take a 46-27 advantage at the break. Nine players scored for the team, which led at halftime for just the third time this season, including once against Division II opponent Chaminade.
''Every win gives us confidence to be honest with you,'' Shamburger said. ''It doesn't matter who it is. As long as we get a win and add it to our record, a win is a win. We just want to beat whoever we can.''
Williams III made just 3 of 10 field goal attempts, but has now led Missouri in scoring and rebounding for three consecutive games since experiencing soreness in his right knee during the Maui Invitational. He has averaged 16.7 points in that span and added eight rebounds Thursday.
Eddy, a sophomore from Charleston, West Virginia, entered the night averaging 11.9 points and has just two career starts for Elon. He finished 8 of 15 from the field and converted all eight of his free throw attempts.
''I thought Luke was sensational,'' Matheny said. ''I have a lot of confidence in him. We've been in a lot of close games this year, and we love to put the ball in his hands.''
The matchup represented the first meeting between the two schools, who scheduled the game before coach Frank Haith left Missouri for Tulsa during the offseason. Haith graduated from Elon in 1988 and served on its staff as an assistant from 1985-89.
Elon: The Phoenix allowed Missouri to shoot 23 of 51 overall, and its defense will be tested again as it continues its four-game road trip.
Missouri: After the Tigers lost 82-63 at Oklahoma on Dec. 5, Thursday's escape adds additional concern ahead of hosting Xavier on Saturday. Missouri also allowed 19 offensive rebounds, compared to nine of its own.
ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER FRESHMAN
D'Angelo Allen, one of four freshmen receiving playing time for Missouri, scored a career-high 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting and added seven rebounds.
Elon plays at Duke on Monday.
Missouri hosts Xavier on Saturday.