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Missouri wins at Arkansas heading into biggest week of their season

Jan 28, 2014, 9:44 PM EDT

Jabari Brown

Earnest Ross and Jabari Brown both finished with 24 points and Jordan Clarkson chipped in with 11 points and six assists  as Missouri went into Bud Walton Arena and pulled off one of the most surprising wins of the SEC season, beating Arkansas 75-71.

This was a huge win for Missouri as they try to put together a resume strong enough to deserve an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The Tigers didn’t do much in non-conference play, with nothing notable but a win over UCLA to show for their troubles. Generally speaking, that wouldn’t be an issue. I think Pittsburgh has proven that fact.

The problem is that the Tigers went out and lost some games to some bad teams. Illinois beat them and has since gone on a six-game losing streak. They lost at home to Georgia. They lost at Vanderbilt. The loss at LSU wouldn’t look so bad if the Tigers actually played up to their potential every night.

Now, Arkansas isn’t exactly Kentucky and they aren’t quite Florida. Beating them, even on the road, isn’t the kind of win that will define a resume.

But since Missouri has entered the SEC, they are 3-9 on the road. During that same time frame, Arkansas is 11-1. This win, as much as anything, is a confidence booster. It’s a statement, and it couldn’t come at a better time. Missouri’s next two games: Kentucky at home and at Florida. Those two games are going to make or break their season. Lose them both, and the Tigers may not play another NCAA tournament team the rest of the season.

Seriously.

They get Ole Miss on the road, Arkansas at home and two games against Tennessee. None of those three teams are close to being a lock at this point.

The good news?

Those big games are coming at the right time. Jabari Brown is playing the best basketball of his career over the course of the last five games, averaging 24.4 points while shooting 20-for-29 from three during that stretch. Earnest Ross and Jonathan Williams III are coming off of their best games of the year. And, quite frankly, winning at Arkansas may be a more difficult task than beating Kentucky at home.

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