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Auburn beats Missouri 81-71 in SEC tournament despite 25 from Jordan Geist

Alex Schiffer, The Kansas City Star on

Published in Basketball

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In the past 48 hours, Jordan Geist did everything he could to prevent his Mizzou basketball career from ending. On Thursday, it finally did.

After scoring a career-high 30 points in 12th-seeded Missouri's win over Georgia on Wednesday night, he had 25 in a 81-71 loss to No. 5 seed Auburn on Thursday in the second round of the SEC tournament at Bridgestone Arena.

"A lot of teams would have quit," Geist said. "We had to punch back. Every time we got punched we (had) to punch back."

Missouri ends the season at 15-17. Coach Cuonzo Martin said after the game that MU will not accept a College Basketball Invitational bid with the NIT and NCAA Tournament out of reach. Auburn (23-9) will play fourth-seeded South Carolina in the SEC quarterfinals on Friday.

Geist was Missouri's lone offensive sparkplug throughout the first half, scoring a game-high 13 in the first 20 minutes. Missouri and Auburn kept pace despite Geist getting little help on offense. Freshman Xavier Pinson accounted for six of MU's 10 turnovers in the first half, which led to 15 Auburn points. Missouri took better care of the ball in the second half, with just four turnovers.

Besides Geist, Torrence Watson was one of MU's only reliable players on offense. He finished with 20 points, which tied a career-high.

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Both Geist and center Reed Nikko were called for flagrant fouls in the first half for hook-and-holds, which gave Auburn extra possessions. Sophomore Mitchell Smith hit a pair of threes that gave MU a 21-19 lead, but Auburn started an 11-0 run after his second triple. Missouri had no answer for Anfernee McLemore, who scored on MU in transition and from deep.

Auburn was a tough matchup for Missouri because all five of its players can space the floor and shoot. Coach Bruce Pearl doesn't use his center the same way Missouri does with Jeremiah Tilmon, which gave every Mizzou player a different assignment.

"When Jeremiah's in the game you can't really play their five man like a five man because he's stepping out and shooting," Mizzou senior Kevin Puryear said. "It's one of those situations where we have to switch. At one point we were switching one through five because all of them play on the perimeter."

Auburn led 28-21 and MU responded with three consecutive 3s. Auburn guard Jared Harper and wing Chuma Okeke battled foul trouble throughout the first half, giving Mizzou a chance. Another three from Geist tied the score at 30, but a late bucket sent MU into halftime trailing 32-30.

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