COLUMBIA, Mo. – Another big Missouri lead had wilted away.
The Tigers, up 14 on No. 21 Texas A&M midway through the second half, led by one with 1 minute, 14 seconds remaining. Desperate for a bucket with the shot clock winding down, Missouri got its best possible outcome: the ball found Kassius Robertson on the wing.
The Tigers’ best 3-point shooter went straight to the rack. His scoop layup kissed the glass and dropped in. The breathing room was critical in a 62-58 win over the Aggies, Missouri’s fifth victory in a row.
It earned Cuonzo Martin’s maximum allowable praise in a postgame press conference.
“He’s a good player,” Martin said. “He made the right play.”
Robertson willed the Tigers (18-8, 8-5 Southeastern Conference) through a dogged second half. He made 5 of 6 shots – including 2 of 3 treys – and scored 13 of Missouri’s 33 points after the break.
He finished with 16 points, four rebounds, two assists and three steals.
“I never really worry,” Robertson said. “We were up eight or nine at halftime, so I wasn’t worried about what my numbers were. I’m always confident in my shot that it will go down sooner or later. I just try to come up and play big when it counted.”
Robertson’s month has already been historic. He was named the SEC Player of the Week for the second consecutive week Monday. No Tiger had ever won back-to-back POTW honors – not in the SEC, not in the Big 12.
Michael Porter Jr. was supposed to lead one of the biggest turnarounds in the SEC and, indeed, the entire country. Robertson has shouldered the bulk of the weight instead.
The Toronto native has played 95 percent of Missouri’s minutes in SEC games, more than any other player in the conference. In league play, he’s hit 90.2 percent of his free throws (which ranks third) and 44.1 percent of his 3s (which ranks seventh).
A year ago as a Canisius Golden Griffin, Robertson was a second-team selection for the All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. He’s trending toward a first-team All-SEC selection this year.
“I think it’s safe to say he’s our leader,” Martin said after the win over Texas A&M (17-9, 6-7). “He wears that very well, because he says the right things in the locker room. Doesn’t do it with a level of arrogance or cockiness with them. He has a humility to him. Guys respect him. You have to respect a guy who works at the level he works at.”
If an award existed for the nation’s most valuable graduate transfer, Robertson’s name would be inscribed already. The numbers tell one story – Robertson leads the team in points per game at 16.6 and ranks in the top 100 nationally in percent of minutes played, fouls committed per 40 minutes and free-throw percentage.
He also represents the ideal for a grad transfer situation as a senior adding crucial experience and leadership while showcasing his talents on a grander stage than previously possible.
Tuesday night, he did it in Missouri’s most vulnerable moment.