SACRAMENTO, Ca. − The Missouri men's basketball team earned a 76-65 victory over Utah State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday, winning its first March Madness matchup since 2010.
The Tigers grabbed an early 14-6 lead within the first six minutes of play. That stretch featured a 12-2 run by the Tigers. D'Moi Hodge and Noah Carter combined to score 10 of Missouri's first 14 points.
By nearly the 11-minute mark, Utah State cut its deficit down to four points with an 8-4 scoring run of their own.
The Tigers found themselves in foul trouble early in the first half, recording seven fouls within the first 11 minutes of the game. Also, three different Tigers committed two personal fouls during that stretch.
Missouri built its lead back up to seven points with 9:45 left in the first half, highlighted by Hodge's second three-pointer of the game. Hodge led all scorers with eight points after that triple.
At halftime, the Tigers led 35-31 over Utah State. Missouri ended its first half scoring with a slam dunk from Carter, who had a game-high 10 points at the break.
Missouri's other top scorers of the first half were Hodge with eight points, DeAndre Gholston with seven points and Kobe Brown with six points.
Missouri held Utah State without a three-pointer in the first half as the Aggies were 0-11 from three-point range in the first 20 minutes of the game. Entering this game, Utah State held a .393 three-point field goal percentage, which was the fifth-highest mark at the NCAA Division I level.
The Tiger defense also had a strong performance in the opening half, forcing eight Utah State turnovers.
However, Utah State retook the lead 36-35 in the second half after trailing for nearly 20 minutes. The Aggies' first three-pointer of the game from Steven Ashworth put them in front.
Missouri took back the lead with 16:22 left in the game after a layup by Hodge, and the British Virgin Islands native extended the Tigers' lead to 44-41 with his third three-pointer of the contest.
After Utah State took a 49-47 lead with just over 10 minutes left to play, Brown took over on offense, scoring the Tigers' next 12 points on a slam dunk, three three-pointers and a free throw to give Missouri a 59-53 lead. Brown had a game-high 19 points at the 6:14-mark.
Following Brown's scoring run, Hodge started a scoring run of his own. Hodge scored eight straight points for the Tigers, including two more three-pointers, to extend Missouri's lead to 67-56, giving the Tigers their largest lead of the contest.
Missouri will face No. 15 Princeton in the second round of the tournament at 5:10 p.m. Saturday.