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No. 23 Missouri’s soft schedule makes Saturday’s loss to Illinois painful

Dec 21, 2013, 8:12 PM EDT

Tracy Abrams, Jabari Brown

Tracy Abrams answered a Jabari Brown three by drawing a foul and hitting two free throws with 4.6 seconds left as Illinois claimed Braggin’ Rights over No. 23 Missouri with a 65-64 win in St. Louis on Saturday evening.

Abrams finished with 22 points and Rayvonte Rice chipped in with 14 for the Illini, who entered Saturday 9-2 with road losses to Georgia Tech and Oregon.

Jordan Clarkson was sensational for the Tigers, finishing with 25 points, eight assists and six boards, but Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross struggled shooting the ball for much of the night. Both hit big threes in the final two minutes, but the Tigers needed those big threes because they were a combined 7-for-20 from the floor and 4-for-11 from three.

It’s tough to make any kind of a declaration about either team after a game like this beyond stating that both of them looked like NCAA tournament teams. Think about it like this: if Jordan Clarkson is able to make a clean catch on the final in-bounds, he would have had more than four seconds and a full head of steam to either get fouled or score at the other end. Illinois only had the lead because Abrams drew a bit of a ticky-tack foul.

That’s how close it was.

But the bottom line is that Illinois won, giving them a second nice win away from home in non-conference play — they also won at UNLV. Missouri’s resume consists of home wins over West Virginia and a UCLA team that got worked by Duke in New York on Thursday. The Tigers could very well end up being the third-best team in the SEC, but they only get Kentucky, Florida and LSU once each, with two of those coming on the road.

Where are the quality wins going to come from for Frank Haith’s club?

If Missouri ends up on the bubble, this close loss could end up being a really big deal.

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