No. 10 Illinois falls to No. 12 Missouri 82-73
ST. LOUIS (AP) - Growing up in suburban St. Louis, Tyler Griffey hoped he could one day compete in the annual Braggin' Rights game between Missouri and Illinois.
After turning down his home-state school for the Illini, Griffey got a chance to play in the game with added interest.
Illinois had won nine consecutive games in the matchup when Griffey joined the team.
But on Saturday, the 6-foot-9, 220-pound senior had to explain for the fourth consecutive year why his team didn't defeat the Tigers.
No. 12 Missouri topped the 10th-ranked Illini 82-73.
"I would have liked to go out with one, that's for sure,'' Griffey said.
Brandon Paul scored 23 points and Griffey added 13 for Illinois (12-1), which lost its first game of the season.
The Illini, entering the day leading the country with 10 3-pointers per game, made only 8 of 32 shots from beyond the arc, its lowest rate of the season.
In its first eight games, Illinois made 41.9 percent of its 3-pointers, but has seen that rate fall by 10 points its past five games.
First-year coach John Groce said the poor shooting was because of a lack of execution, but said his team's effort doesn't have him worried.
"I tell them all the time, the X's and O's only matter when you're playing your tails off and you're playing together, and we did those two things tonight,'' he said. "We just have to get a little better with the execution stuff.''
Laurence Bowers led Missouri (10-1) with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Alex Oriakhi added 13 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Jabari Brown, in his first start of the season, scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Phil Pressey had 12 points and 11 assists.
Brown, a transfer from Oregon, became eligible after the first semester and made his first appearance Monday in a 102-51 win over South Carolina State.
A top recruit, Brown made the most of his first starting appearance Saturday.
"It was fun - I'm part of the family now,'' Brown said.
Brown watched from the sideline as the Tigers rolled to an 8-1 record without him. After becoming eligible, he has worked hard to make up for lost time.
"I wanted to prove I could play right away and fit in any way I can,'' he said. "I spent a lot time practicing and getting used to things and the way they play here.
"Now, I'm finally feeling comfortable.''
Brown keyed a 9-0 run that erased a three-point deficit and put the Tigers ahead to stay 70-64. He had four points and two rebounds during the 2:31 run.
Brown scored from close range off a nice pass from Earnest Ross to increase the lead to 68-64, Pressey added a short jumper seconds later to complete the run.
Oriakhi, who got his fourth double-double of the season, was impressed with Brown's effort
"He's unbelievable, he did a little bit of everything tonight,'' Oriakhi said. "I can't believe he's fit in so fast. He's one of us now.''
Brown played in two games at Oregon last season before deciding to transfer. He watched last season's Braggin' Rights game from his home in Oakland and was intrigued by the atmosphere, which annually features a sellout crowd with the fans divided equally between both schools.
"I had visited (Missouri) and really hadn't made a decision, but I thought, `If I choose (Missouri) that's going to be a fun game to play in.'''
Missouri coach Frank Haith was pleased with the performance of his new addition. He immediately moved him into the starting lineup after a 12-point performance against South Carolina State.
"It was all about our balance,'' Haith said. "And he can do a lot of things.''
Missouri used its strength and muscle inside to win its fourth in a row in the series and cut the Illinois lead to 20-12 in the annual event. The Tigers outrebounded Illinois 58-35 and held a 44-24 advantage in the paint.
"They've got a lot of depth and they've got size,'' Groce said. "They're good now. They've got a chance to get even better moving forward.''
The physical matchup featured 19 lead changes, 35 fouls and 43 free throws.
The Tigers scored 12 of the final 16 points in the first half to take a 41-35 lead into the break. Illinois reeled off eight unanswered points midway through the second half to go up 51-50 on a driving layup by Tracy Abrams. The Illini took their biggest lead of the second half, 64-61 on a baseline jumper by Nnanna Egwu with 6:43 remaining.
But the Missouri defense took over from there, forcing seven successive Illinois misses. Brown, Ross, Tony Criswell and Pressey added key baskets.
Illinois managed just three field goals in the final 3:29.
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