Mizzou outlasts Utah State in the first round of the NCAA 76-65

SACRAMENTO, California — The Tigers had never seen their head coach cry before Thursday.

Missouri, No. 7, walked through the Golden 1 Center tunnel full of emotion after beating No. 10 Utah State 76-65 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“Where’s the radio?” Dennis Gates asked as the team reached the dressing room and asked someone to play “California Love.” 2pack. Gates said in a news conference on Wednesday that he had invited his old college coach to Ben Brown, who was a head coach at Cal-Berkeley from 1996 to 2008 to see Mizzou play. Braun made the trip alongside a handful of former Gates teammates. They were all present as the Tigers head coach clinched his first win in the tournament as a freshman year and led his program to its first Big Dance win since 2010.

It brought tears to his eyes.

“There’s one thing in life you have to be prepared for sometimes, and that’s the unpredictable,” Gates said. “No one in the country, no one in the basket world, first of all expected us to be here… The only people who believed we could do what we did were the guys in our dressing room, obviously our crowd, our fan base, who have been by our side from day one. I am very proud of the results.”

The results came after a run put together single-handedly by Mizzou’s two top scorers. At 10:46 left in the second half, USU senior forward Dan Akin threw a dunk to give the Aggies their first lead since the game’s opening minutes at 49-47. A minute later, senior forward Kobe Brown answered.

The All-SEC First Team pick stole the ball and then took it down near the right block on the opposite end of the floor. He checked Akin for a couple of dribbles, pivoted left to drive down the baseline and rose to land a reverse dunk. Senior Guard Tre Gomillion Brown asked in the dressing room after the game how he would rate the dunk. colleague Senior Guard Ben Sternberg answered for him – 23 out of 10.

Brown had been limited to six points in the first half after conceding two fouls in the opening eight minutes. After his dunk, however, he scored all of the Tigers’ subsequent 10 points, dumping a trio of 3-pointers and sinking a free throw.

After drilling his second triple, Brown turned to the Missouri bench and locked eyes with Gates.

“I’m here,” Brown told him.

“Yes, you are,” Gates replied.

Senior Guard D’Moi Hodge kept the team going by scoring the team’s next eight points. In one game, Hodge took the ball wide on the right touchline for a throw-in, prompting the attention of senior forward Noah Carter. Hodge tossed him the ball and then zoomed down the baseline. Carter threw it right back at him and Hodge slammed down the give-and-go dunk.

“I know Noah is a great passer,” Hodge said. “I try to do that with Noah every time because I know I’m faster than most of the players that protect me. I’m just trying to pass the ball to him and run fast. We tried Alabama and it wasn’t open so he didn’t give me the pass. Today I said “Noah!” and handed him the ball before he even saw it.”

Hodge followed up with a 3-pointer on the next possession to make it a 20-7 run and take a 67-56 lead with 3:55 minutes remaining. The Aggies (26-9, 13-5 MWC) were never able to reduce the deficit to less than eight and were eliminated in the first round.

Brown finished the game with 19 points, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block. Hodge added a game-high 23 points and four steals, plus four rebounds and two assists. Gates became the first Mizzou head coach in program history to win his first tournament game in his debut season with the Tigers.

California knows how to party, but Gates said it’s no time to celebrate. The team needs to get ready for their second round game right now – there’s more season to come. Not everyone thought they would be playing this late in the year. But the tigers always did.

“I think our philosophy is not to blink,” Gates said. “We didn’t blink no matter what the noise of the crowd, no matter what the reaction or the plays by Utah State. You are a good team. You should go on the run. We are also a good team and we should react. Our guys spoke up and responded… The bigger picture is this: our team is balanced and I’m proud of how we react in adverse situations.”

Coach Gomillion is out in March

Tre Gomillion’s team-mates approached him on the touchline with around 15 minutes remaining, hoping to comfort him. Gomillion warmed up with the team when they first came out of the locker room, but Gates decided it was best to hold out for the team captain against Utah State while he continues to recover from a groin injury he sustained in January had.

It was the third game in a row that Gomillion missed. He was unhappy – he wanted to be out there for his teammates.

“It’s tough, but those are the cards I was dealt,” Gomillion said. “So I just have to deal with that and give what I can.”

Gates told the Cleveland State Transfer he needs Gomillion as committed as any other assistant coach on the staff. Gomillion did his best. At some point during Thursday’s game, Gomillion got up from his seat and walked over to Gates. He thought the head coach was upset about a phone call or something else that Mizzou didn’t like. Gomillion reminded him to keep calm. The players on the floor were looking for trust in Gates at the moment.

“His makeup, his IQ, affects a dressing room. Kind of reminds me of myself when I was in college,” Gates said. “I didn’t ask about the game time, how many minutes, how many shots. I asked for guidance. Tre Gomillion is the same… you can see him coming up to me and making suggestions. I expect that and I expect that from him.”

Gomillion smiled after the win. He was proud that his teammates got the job done. He will have another opportunity to play in the second tournament game of his career.

“There was only one way to catch him and that was to win,” said the senior guard DeAndre Gholston called. “You know, buy him some time to come back and do his bit like he always does. And on the sidelines, everyone knows he’s a coach. He communicates the whole game, he calls out sentences. He helped us when we needed to get better and everything he said was true. Everything he said we did and he helped us get a win.”


No. 15 Princeton upset No. 2 Arizona in the game that followed Thursday’s Mizzou at the Golden 1 Center, setting up a second-round matchup for the two Tigers squads. Missouri (25-9, 11-7 SEK) will take on Princeton (22-8, 10-4 Ivy League) on Saturday with a game time to be determined.

Keep up to date with all Mizzou news with your premium subscription

Talk about this story and more in The Tigers’ Lair

Make sure you’re up to date on all Tiger news and headlines

Subscribe to our YouTube channel for video and live streaming coverage

Follow all of our staff on Twitter

Everyone here already has insurance (or should). Everyone here is also cheering for the Tigers (or should they). In collegiate sports, the hot-button issue is ZERO. Without a strong NIL collective, a school cannot compete as it could just a few years ago. In our economy, the hot topic is inflation. Here’s your opportunity to save money for what the state is asking you to do for your car and your lender is asking you to do for your home. Oh, and by the way, just a quote from James’ office will bring in a donation to PowerMizzou’s fund with the Every True Tiger Foundation, Mizzou’s favorite NIL collective, on your behalf. Blink if you like saving money. Blink twice if you want to do whatever it takes to position your favorite college program to be as competitive as possible in the SEC. Call James’ office at 314-961-4800 or request a quote online at carltoninsurance.net.

“If your insurance costs you a leg and an arm, call James Carlton State Farm.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *