Missouri builds big lead, holds off No. 21 Oregon in Omaha

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Oregon forward Eugene Omoruyi (2) shoots a free throw against Missouri during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020 in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/John Peterson)

OMAHA, Neb. – Missouri passed its early test against No. 21 Oregon, validating coach Cuonzo Martin's belief that a Tigers team that returned four starters is poised to move up in the Southeastern Conference.

Xavier Pinson scored 19 of his 22 points in the second half and Missouri overcame a mid-game lull and late Oregon flurry to beat the Ducks 83-75 on Wednesday night.

“I like going to battle with them because they value each other, they want to see each other successful, they don’t care who gets the accolades,” Martin said. “Now you have a situation where you've got two or three who want to go after the other team’s best player, like they're fighting to do that. That didn’t happen in the past, and that’s a good sign.”

Mark Smith scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half as Missouri (2-0) built a 17-point lead, but Chris Duarte scored eight straight points to get the Ducks within five in the final minute.

“I thought there were moments we let up mentally because we looked at the scoreboard and thought, it’s my turn here to get a shot, instead of keeping the foot on the pedal and winning the basketball game,” Martin said.

“I thought it was a great team effort. The guys were hungry, they were excited to play the game and we had great results against a very talented team.”

Eugene Omoruyi set career highs with 31 points and 11 rebounds in his first game for the Ducks (0-1) since transferring from Rutgers. While the Tigers missed 15 shots in a row spanning the halves, Omoruyi scored 12 straight points to lead Oregon's push to get within single digits.

Pinson and Javon Pickett, who came off the bench and scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half, helped Missouri rebuild the lead before the Ducks made it close late.