SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico | On the shoulder’s of DeMarre Carroll’s career-high 29 points and the sharp-shooting and ball-hawking T. J. Tiller, Missouri knocked of No. 19 USC 83-72.
The triumph earned the Tigers the fourth-place, consolation game trophy Sunday of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
More importantly, it moved Missouri to 4-1 and served noticed the Tigers might be more than a middle of the pack team in the Big 12 Conference.
“That can’t do anything but boost your confidence,” said coach Mike Anderson. “I can’t say enough about the leadership of our guys.
“DeMarre Carroll had a tremendous career-high game. Leo Lyons came back in the second half and I thought really settled down and played some good basketball.
“J.T. Tiller? What can you say? The iron man of our basketball team.”
Down by a dozen points in the first half, Missouri cut that deficit in half at the break, USC up 43-37.
With 16 minutes, 11 seconds to play, USC’s Taj Gibson worked inside for a basket that put USC up 51-41.
Then the Tigers simply took over, outscoring the Trojans in the final 16 minutes 42-21, handing USC its second loss in three games at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico, and more convincingly than Seton Hall’s two-point upset of the Trojans on the first day.
Further, this was an answer for Missouri’s own 75-71 first-day loss to Xavier in a game Missouri led by seven points before missing eight of 10 free throws down the stretch.
“We saw the Seton Hall game,” Carroll said. “Once you get on top of them, we saw that some of their heads get down.
“We just said we’re not going to let another opportunity pass us by like we had against Xavier.”
It did not help USC’s cause that Gibson, plagued by foul trouble from early in the game, rode the bench most of the day and scored only 11 points before fouling out with 63 seconds left.
The Trojans were also hurt when Kasey Cunningham, who scored 11 points in relief of Gibson, was helped off the court with a left knee injury with 10 minutes to play.
But Missouri helped itself as well.
From start to finish, Carroll proved a force. He hit 11 of 16 shots (including three of three three-pointers), hit four of five free throws and ripped off nine rebounds.
“I was feeling it,” Carroll said. “I kind of took it personally. A lot of people, they say when you get on a big stage you’ve got to show your overall game.”
Carroll hit two big threes in the second half, stepping back to make sure it was a bonus shot on one of them.
“It was a heat check and I’m glad it went in,” Carroll said, “because if it didn’t Coach, more of his hair would have turned grey on me.”
The other three that stood out did so because it came with the shot clock running down and Carroll’s teammates just sort of standing around looking at their senior forward.
“Let me see what I’m made of,” Carroll said. “My dad always told me, `Late in the game you need to step up to the plate.’
“I saw my teammates looking at me, so I just shot the ball.”
Tiller, meanwhile, hit 3 of 3 threes on the way to 14 points and came up with three steals.
Lyons scored 13 points for the Tigers, while Keith Ramsey (8 points), Miguel Paul (7 points) and Marcus Denmon (5 rebounds and 4 points) contributed off the bench.
Missouri led just 68-67 when, with 5:19 left, Tiller drove right, was fouled and hit both free throws.
Tiller then stole the ball and fed Denman for a lay up past Gibson. Next, Denman stole the inbounds pass and Lyons turned that into a bucket that put Missouri up 74-67 with 4:50 to play.
Mizzou kept USC (now 3-2) at bay the rest of the way.
Missouri, now 4-1, heads home from Puerto Rico tonight having won two of three on the island heading into Saturday’s 3 p.m. tip off against Oral Roberts at Mizzou Arena.