Big day of Mizzou sports starts with upset win over UCLA, 80-71

Story by The Associated Press
Photos by Karen Mitchell

Earnest Ross starts to celebrate as the clock winds down in the second half. Ross had 20 points in the win over UCLA.

Earnest Ross starts to celebrate as the clock winds down in the second half. Ross had 20 points in the win over UCLA.

COLUMBIA —Missouri guard Earnest Ross thinks it’s “pretty cool” when he makes 3-pointers. His teammates agree, especially when they’re dropping in big games.

Ross scored 20 points and finished 5 of 11 from beyond the arc to help Missouri upset No. 18 UCLA 80-71 on Saturday.

His third 3-pointer with 14:46 remaining gave the Tigers their first lead in more than 16 minutes.

The shot bounced off the front of the rim before going in, helping Missouri (9-0) overcome an eight-point halftime deficit.

“As I continue to shoot and see shots go in, it makes the basket get a little bit bigger,” Ross said. “When I’m in a

rhythm, I just think I’m in a pretty good groove and I just continue to keep shooting.”

Sometimes that thinking gets Ross into trouble with coach Frank Haith, who prefers to see him use his 6-foot-5, 228-pound frame to drive the lane and score in the paint.

“I’m pretty liberal with our guys taking shots,” Haith said, “but I want them to understand we were much better shooting the ball because we ran our offense in the second half.”

The win extended Missouri’s NCAA-best, home-court winning streak to 24 games and the Tigers’ run of 79 consecutive wins against non-conference opponents at Mizzou Arena. The victory was the first in that stretch against a nationally ranked team.

Jordan Adams scored 22 points and had 10 rebounds and Kyle Anderson and Zach LaVine each added 13 points for UCLA (8-1), which lost in its first game on an opponent’s court this season.

“I think a couple guys, including myself, took some tough shots, which is not fair to our teammates,” Anderson said. “It made it much easier on our opponents. That’s not the basketball we play. We’ve played though big games and we’ve just got to get better at that.”

Jabari Brown scored 22 points and Jordan Clarkson added 21 for Missouri. Johnathan Williams III grabbed 15 rebounds to help the Tigers gain a 47-30 advantage on the boards and remain the only unbeaten team in the Southeastern Conference. The team is off to its best start since the 2006-07 season.

The basketball game started off a day full of Missouri sports, with the football team playing for the SEC championship Saturday afternoon and the volleyball team playing in the NCAA tournament Saturday night.

Missouri trailed 43-35 at halftime after committing 12 turnovers and shooting 41.7 percent from the field. Back-to-back fastbreak dunks by Ross and Brown brought the Tigers within 49-45 with 16:44 remaining. After UCLA’s Tony Parker converted a free throw, Ross hit consecutive 3-pointers to give the Tigers their first lead since 11:20 left in the first half.

Brown’s 3-pointer about 5 minutes later expanded Missouri’s lead to 67-62, and UCLA couldn’t get any closer the rest of the way.

“They just beat us there first,” Adams said. “We tried our best to get every rebound. Some didn’t bounce our way. Hopefully with practice, we will continue to get better with that.”

UCLA entered the game averaging a Pac-12-leading 90.6 points, including 98.8 in its last four contests. The Bruins made 15 of 30 attempts in the first half, but only converted 8 of 31 attempts – including 0-for-8 from behind the arc – after the break.

“Our offense just didn’t move,” first-year UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “The ball stopped a lot. We were in a pretty good rhythm in the first half, and for whatever reason, we stopped moving the ball offensively in the second half.”

The teams traded baskets for the first 10 minutes before a 3-pointer by Bryce Alford sparked a 14-0 run that gave the Bruins a 30-17 lead with 6:47 left before the break. Missouri scored the next 11 points, but UCLA countered with eight for a 38-28 lead. LaVine finished the run with a thunderous windmill dunk.

Both schools played in the Las Vegas Invitational last week and were selected co-champions after defeating Nevada and Northwestern in Nevada. UCLA and Missouri agreed to not play each other ahead of Saturday’s matchup.

The game ended a home-and-home series after UCLA defeated the Tigers 97-94 in overtime at Pauley Pavilion last Dec. 28.

The Tigers next face Western Michigan on Sunday, Dec. 15 at Mizzou Arena at 6 p.m.

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