LINCOLN, Nebraska (Ticker) -- With its place in the top 25 in jeopardy, Arthur Johnson may have kept Missouri alive for another week.
Johnson scored 18 points as the 25th-ranked Tigers rallied for a 63-56 Big 12 Conference victory over Nebraska.
Losses in three of their previous four games had caused the Tigers (12-4, 3-2) to drop 12 spots over the past two weeks. A loss in Nebraska may have knocked the Tigers out of the rankings and it looked possible for most of the contest as they fell behind 15-4 early and trailed 31-22 at halftime.
But Missouri used a 17-9 run to grab a 57-49 advantage on Rickey Paulding's layup with 3:06 to go and sealed the win when Josh Kroenke sank a 3-pointer with 94 seconds remaining for a 61-50 cushion.
Johnson had scored a career-high 36 points in Missouri's win at Baylor on January 11 and led the team in scoring in a blowout loss to 11th-ranked Oklahoma State on January 18. But he was coming off a woeful performance in Saturday's 76-55 setback at third-ranked Texas, when he finished with 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting.
Johnson netted eight points in the second half. But none were bigger than his dunk with 4:03 remaining that gave the Tigers a 53-49 advantage.
Besides' Johnson clutch play, Missouri's defense stepped up over the final 20 minutes, holding the Cornhuskers to 22 percent (6-of-27) shooting in the second half.
"Our defense made some adjustments quickly and stopped chasing screens all over," said Missouri coach Quin Snyder, who improved to 6-1 vs. Nebraska. "We definitely had a more solid defensive effort in the second half. We are a very young team. We have to learn from these games and all games. We have reverted back to letting our defense do the work."
Nebraska (9-10, 1-5) was facing a ranked Tigers squad in Lincoln for the first time since beating them 69-61 on February 6, 1999. Andrew Drevo's 24 points led the Cornhuskers.
Drevo hit three 3-pointers and grabbed 14 rebounds. But the Cornhuskers shot a season-low 31 percent (17-of-55) and suffered the fifth loss in six games.
"We got good open looks in the second half," Drevo said. "We just need to stay focused and go to practice and try to get better every day."
"I talked with the team at the end of the game and there really wasn't any excuse for our poor shooting average in the second half," Nebraska coach Barry Collier said. "It's not that we were taking bad shots, we were just defended very well by our opponent. That was our biggest problem in the second half of the game."
Missouri shot just 34.5 percent (10-of-29) in the opening half, but improved to 55 percent (16-of-29) in the second half and finished at 45 percent (26-of-58).
Wednesday was the fifth straight slow start for the Tigers, who had failed to shoot above 40 percent in the first half of their last four games.
Drevo scored Nebraska's first seven points of the contest and his 3-pointer with 2:29 to play gave the Cornhuskers their largest lead at 29-18.