COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Jordan Barnett is in his fifth year of college basketball, but he’s just starting to show what he can do. The senior forward scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as Missouri beat North Florida 85-51 on Saturday.
“He’s a talented basketball player,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said. “That’s why I was saying in previous games when he walked away with 18 points, 19 points and two or three rebounds, I don’t know if that’s a good game for him, because he has the ability to rebound and slash and make stuff happen. He’s cutting more to the basket and getting layups instead of just 3-point shots.”
Barnett, a St. Louis native, played sporadically in a year and a half at Texas before transferring to Missouri. He sat out a year per NCAA rules and then endured the tail end of the Tigers’ dreadful 8-24 campaign last season. He is finally getting a chance to show off all his skills while winning games.
An explosive leaper at 6 feet 7 inches, he can finish at the rim and make 3-pointers. He showed both talents against the Ospreys (5-8). Barnett made 8 of 12 shots from the field, including 2 of 4 from 3-point range. For the season, he is shooting 37 percent from long range.
“I can attack and be more aggressive in all facets of the game,” said Barnett, who is Missouri’s co-leading scorer at 13.7 points per game. “Sometimes when my 3 is falling, I might settle, but tonight was a good example of me scoring every possible way I could.”
Missouri (9-2) exploited its size advantage inside, holding a 52-31 edge in rebounds. Reed Nikko, a 6-10, 250-pound forward, came off the bench to score a career-high 12 points.
“He’s a bulldozer down there,” Barnett said.
Fellow big men Jeremiah Tilmon (10 points) and Jontay Porter (six points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two blocks) also had their way inside against the Ospreys, whose tallest player is 6 feet 8 inches.
“One of the (points of) emphasis for us coming into this game was get the ball inside, because of how they extend with their zone, the interior will be open — not just because of the size of those guys with the lack of bigs,” Martin said.
North Florida entered Saturday ranked fourth nationally in 3-pointers made per game at 11.9 on 40.4-percent shooting from 3-point range. The Ospreys made just 5-of-28 3-pointers against the Tigers.
Missouri defenders switched on all perimeter screens to prevent shooters from getting any room, and North Florida couldn’t take advantage of the occasional mismatches inside when MU guards were stuck defending big men.
“We game-planned for the 3,” said Missouri’s Kassius Robertson, who scored 11 points. “We knew they had four or five guys shooting 40 percent from 3, and I think we did a really good job of taking away their 3s.”
Wajid Aminu led North Florida with 13 points, and Noah Horchler and Ivan Gandia-Rosa added 10 each.
With the victory, Missouri surpassed last season’s win total, although that barely registered with Barnett.
“I try to completely forget about last year,” Barnett said. “It’s all about this year.”
Missouri: Reserve guard Jordan Geist had his second straight productive game. He finished with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting after scoring 28 points against Green Bay. He had only one turnover in those games.
North Florida: The Ospreys dropped to 0-20 all-time against Southeastern Conference opponents. They get two more chances this season, with games at LSU on Friday and Mississippi State on Dec. 30.
Missouri reserve guard Terrence Phillips suffered an injury shortly after entering the game midway through the first half. He limped to the locker room and didn’t return.
“It’s his foot or something like that,” Martin said. “We’ll find out more.”
Missouri completes a four-game home stand Tuesday against Stephen F. Austin (10-1), which has won six straight, including Saturday’s 83-82 victory at LSU.
North Florida visits Ball State (6-4) on Tuesday.
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