COLUMBIA, Mo. — Kobe Brown scored 30 points in a dominant performance, D’Moi Hodge added 15 and Missouri blew out No. 19 Kentucky 89-75 on Wednesday night in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
DeAndre Gholston and Sean East II also had 12 points apiece for the Tigers (12-1), who roared past then-No. 16 Illinois 93-71 last week and are off to their best start since the 2013-14 season. The win over Kentucky was only their third in 17 games.
Missouri led by 12 at halftime and stretched it to more than 20 down the stretch, handing Kentucky coach John Calipari just his third loss in 14 SEC openers. The Wildcats had been 306-58 against unranked teams under him.
The Wildcats (8-4) could be unranked soon, and perhaps cede their place to the Tigers, who already were receiving votes this week. Their only loss under first-year coach Dennis Gates came to No. 4 Kansas in their last game at Mizzou Arena.
Oscar Tshiebwe led Kentucky with 23 points and 19 rebounds, but most of his offense came at the foul line, where he was just 11 of 17. Cason Wallace added 19 points despite playing with four fouls down the stretch.
The Tigers got off to a quick start against the Wildcats — they like to play fast all the time — and built a 10-point lead by getting easy baskets in transition. And when they sped up too much, or Kentucky picked off a pass or one went flying into the seats, the Wildcats were unable to take advantage when they coughed up the ball themselves.
Not that shots were falling for them; Kentucky missed 11 of its first 12 from beyond the arc.
It’s not the first time the Wildcats have struggled to score. They plodded their way to a 60-41 victory over Bellarmine last month, and a couple of weeks ago, barely scraped past 50 points in a 63-53 loss to UCLA at Madison Square Garden.
The Tigers, meanwhile, entered fourth nationally in scoring, and it was evident as they built a 42-30 halftime lead.
Nothing changed in the opening minutes of the second half, either: Brown converted a three-point play for Missouri, the Wildcats’ Chris Livingston turned it over, Brown scored again and Livingston turned it over again.
Missouri’s lead eventually swelled to 50-32 with just over 16 minutes to go.
Kentucky spent the next five minutes slowly whittling it in half, closing to 56-47 when Lance Ware followed up a miss by Tshiebwe under the bucket. But the Tigers answered with eight quick points to regain control, and they eventually got the lead over 20 points before cruising to a statement win over the Wildcats.
Kentucky could easily point to two freshmen in the starting lineup and blame its slow start on growing pains. But Sahvir Wheeler and Tshiebwe, the reigning national player of the year, are seniors, and there is plenty of experience in the lineup. And that makes the sloppy turnovers and poor shot selection even more troubling for the Wildcats.
Missouri was blown out by the Jayhawks 95-67 less than three weeks ago, and struggled mightily to beat Central Florida its next time out. But wins over the Illini and Wildcats are certain to raise some eyebrows around the country.
The Wildcats visit Louisville on Saturday.
The Tigers visit Arkansas next Wednesday.