Missouri sophomore guard Xavier Pinson has unleashed the best stretch of his Tiger career over the past 10 days.
The latest chapter unfolded against Mississippi on Tuesday night as the Chicago native scored his team’s first seven points and remained a consistent presence throughout the Southeastern Conference clash.
For the third time in a week and a half, Pinson upped his career high in points, netting 32 to lift Missouri to a 71-68 victory over Ole Miss at Mizzou Arena.
"He’s obviously put the work in," Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin said of Pinson. "We try to put him in position to help him score the ball because he’s a guy that needs to go north and south, and he’s very effective that way. When you have him going east-west with guys pressuring him and trapping him, he’s not the same player. ... He’s a guy that’s never lacked confidence, but he’s playing with a high level of confidence."
The Tigers improve to 13-13 overall and 5-8 in SEC play with the victory.
The win, combined with Florida’s victory over Arkansas, gives Missouri sole possession of 10th place in the league standings — the lowest the Tigers can be to avoid the play-in round of the SEC Tournament.
Pinson finished 9-for-13 from the field, including 4 of 4 from 3-point range. He went 10-for-11 from the free-throw line and sunk six of them in the final two minutes.
"I feel like my teammates got me into open spots," Pinson said. "We executed our offense really good, stayed aggressive, and that allowed me to be open a lot of times.
"... I just feel locked in all the time. Nothing really gets to me."
Pinson scored 20 points against Ole Miss last season for a previous career high before recently netting 24 points against Arkansas on Feb. 8. He then recorded 28 points against then-No. 11 Auburn on Saturday night.
"He played good against us last year," Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis said of Pinson. "... He’s a good player, he’s fast with the ball. He plays with a lot of confidence."
Ole Miss’ Breein Tyree posted 29 points but missed two 3-point attempts to tie the game during the Rebels’ final possession.
Dru Smith was the only other Tiger to score in double figures, with 17 points.
Missouri entered the game just 2-12 all-time against Ole Miss. That was Missouri’s second-worst head-to-head winning percentage vs. SEC teams. The Tigers are 1-10 all-time against Kentucky.
Tigers forward Parker Braun more than doubled his career high in minutes. He played 24 minutes and finished the game with six points, seven rebounds and four blocks.
The Mizzou Arena single-game record for blocks in a game is six, set by Ricardo Ratliffe on two separate occasions in 2011, along with four opposing players, including former 7-foot-6 Central Florida center Tacko Fall.
Missouri is scheduled to return to action at noon Saturday at Arkansas. The Tigers defeated the Razorbacks 83-79 in overtime in their first meeting.