COLUMBIA, Mo. -- With controversy swirling around head coach Frank Haith, Missouri's first season in the SEC appeared to be going down the drain midway through the second half. But the 22nd-ranked Tigers used a 20-2 run to erase a 13-point deficit and hold off South Carolina 71-65 on Tuesday night.
Missouri made only 5 of 27 three-pointers, but got big shots behind the line from Earnest Ross with 1:04 to play and Jabari Brown with 14 seconds remaining to spoil the Gamecocks' upset bid. Ross had 21 points, Alex Oriakhi added 18 points and 11 rebounds and Brown scored 17 for the Tigers.
South Carolina led 41-28 with 17:11 to go, but Brown tied it at 43 with a three-pointer and gave Missouri the lead on a free throw with 12:30 to go. The Tigers added a layup from Tony Criswell and one by Brown to complete the 20-2 spurt that lasted nearly six minutes and put Mizzou up 48-43.
South Carolina battled back to take a 54-51 lead on Brenton Williams' fourth three-pointer of the night, and it was back and forth the rest of the way.
Williams led the Gamecocks with 16 points. Ross, who was a game-time decision with a back injury suffered against Georgia, hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to give the Tigers a 66-63 lead with 1:04 to play.
South Carolina led by as many as nine points and had a 35-27 edge over Missouri at halftime. The Gamecocks shot just 40 percent from the floor, but hit 50 percent of their 3-pointers.
South Carolina made four of its first five shots from three-point range, including two by Williams, to jump out to a 17-11 lead.
Already without two starters, Ross was a game-time decision for Missouri. He played and scored 11 first half points to keep the Tigers close. Ross combined with Oriakhi to score 13 of Missouri's first 15 points.
Brown capped a 6-0 Tiger run with an acrobatic layup. Brown threw the ball in off the glass as he was falling to the floor after a foul. He missed the free throw, but still managed to tie the game at 17.
The Tigers made only six shots from the floor in the opening half, including a nearly eight-minute drought after Brown's layup, but a 14-for-17 performance at the free-throw line kept Missouri reasonably close.
NOTES: Missouri was down two starters. Laurence Bowers missed his fourth straight game with a sprained MCL and Keion Bell did not go after injuring an ankle against Florida. ... Frank Martin entered the game 2-0 against Frank Haith at Missouri. ... Martin beat the Tigers twice as Kansas State's head coach last year. ... Both wins came by double digits ... Missouri came in 77-4 at Mizzou Arena over the last five seasons, including 10-0 this season.