ST. LOUIS — Mark Smith made a resounding final statement with a dunk that didn’t even count.

Silent nearly all game Saturday, the junior guard was fouled with 4.9 seconds remaining as Missouri men’s basketball closed out a 63-56 Braggin’ Rights win over Illinois.

The Edwardsville, Illinois, native and former Illini player decided not to stop there. Smith continued to drive to the basket and slammed the ball home, provoking jubilation from Missouri fans and animosity from former supporters and teammates.

Smith, who transferred from his home-state university to Missouri after his freshman season, was one of four Illinois natives who suited up for the Tigers in the Saturday matinee.

Their contributions — especially from two off the bench — helped MU to its second straight victory over Illinois in front of a divided house of 15,259 at the Enterprise Center.

“Being from Illinois is a good thing,” said Missouri sophomore guard and Chicagoan Xavier Pinson, who along with Javon Pickett, of Belleville, and Jeremiah Tilmon, of East St. Louis, represents the Land of Lincoln on the Missouri roster. “But across our chests it says Mizzou, so we want to do whatever we can to make them look good.”

Pickett and Pinson turned in stellar performances, combining to score 31 points despite not being in the starting lineup. Twenty-two of them came in the second half, when Missouri (7-4) grew its 26-23 halftime lead into an advantage as large as 14 points.

Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin, himself a native of East St. Louis, has insistently repeated he views the sophomore duo as starters, and they certainly proved why.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re coming off the bench or starting,” Pinson said. “When coach calls your name, you’ve got to be ready, no matter what the situation is. We all just came in ready to play. We were focused and brought the energy as well as the starters.”

Their production helped offset an off shooting day for Smith, who after matching the Mizzou Arena record with seven 3-pointers last weekend was held scoreless Saturday while receiving the loudest boos from Illinois fans.

Tilmon was also mostly held in check, fouling out with about five minutes left, but still delivered a big moment — an emphatic putback jam to put the Tigers up 49-35 with 8:34 remaining.

Despite not getting any points from two of its top three scorers in the first half, Missouri made up for in other places to put a recent five-game losing streak in the series further in the rear-view mirror.

“From the beginning, I really wanted to win this game for my teammates,” said Mitchell Smith, who being from Arkansas admittedly doesn’t have the same lifelong connection to Braggin’ Rights. “We’ve got a lot of guys from around this area and I know they want to brag.

“Everybody wants to brag.”

The 2019 edition of the rivalry was Christmas-come-early for basketball purists: The Illini entered as the top rebounding team in the nation. The Tigers, despite not always playing pretty, outrebounded them 36-32.

Pickett and Mitchell Smith led MU with six boards a piece, and the Tigers produced 16 second-chance points.

“We just wanted to be the tougher team,” Pickett said. “We knew we were the tougher team.”

Illinois freshman Kofi Cockburn, with his 7-foot, 290-pound frame, entered Saturday averaging 11 rebounds per game.

Against a rotation of outsized defenders Tilmon, Reed Nikko and Mitchell Smith, he brought down only two boards Saturday, his fewest of the season. The Illini fall to 8-4 overall.

“Credit goes to the big guys for embracing the challenge,” Martin said.

The Tigers’ 13-4 run to end the first half ignited belief that a rivalry repeat was within grasp.

Evansville transfer Dru Smith, making his debut in the series, scored eight points during the game-changing spree and finished with 19 points overall.

“Dru, that’s a person you like to have on your team,” Pickett said. “He can do a lot of different things for us like rebounding, getting assists, the defensive end and scoring the ball. He went out there, he was confident, he was finding other guys and he found his shot.”

Holding Illinois to a season low in scoring, Missouri did exactly what Martin prides his team on — defending, rebounding and playing their hearts out for 40 minutes. The Tigers have now limited seven opponents to fewer than 60 points this season.

That only bodes well for the start of Southeastern Conference play in two weeks, preceded by a nonconference game a week from Monday against Chicago State, which is ranked second-to-last in Division 1 by KenPom.

“If we’re healthy, I think we’re as good as any team,” Martin said. “When you go into SEC play, and I’ve said it to our guys before, we have a chance to be as good as anybody in the league.”

With help from across the Mississippi River, Missouri outdueled Illinois on Saturday.

Now it looks to repeat, repeat, repeat.

kgraeler@columbiatribune.com