COLUMBIA, Mo. – Torrence Watson knew it. His Tiger teammates knew it. Fans had watched it unfold over the past few months.
The MU sharpshooting sophomore guard was going through a slump to start the 2019 season, and he couldn’t shake it.
That is, until the end of the first half of Monday night’s game against Chicago State.
With one perimeter shot with just over two minutes remaining in the first half, the weight on Watson’s shoulders was removed. The St. Louis native added a buzzer-beater from beyond the arc at the halftime whistle that Watson said gave him a ton of confidence heading into the second half.
Six second-half 3-pointers later, Watson not only set his career high with a game-best 24 points in Missouri’s 91-33 win over Chicago State at Mizzou Arena, but he etched his name into the venue’s record books.
Watson’s eight 3-pointers broke the Mizzou Arena record of seven 3s in a game, previously held by seven players.
Mark Smith tied the old record against Southern Illinois on Dec. 15. MU alumni Marcus Denmon and Kim English both accomplished the feat during the 2011-2012 season, while Matt Lawrence and Thomas Gardner were the first Missouri players to reach that feat during the 2006-2007 season.
South Carolina’s Brenton Williams and DePaul’s Drake Deiner also had seven 3-pointers in a game at Mizzou Arena.
Watson has only made eight 3-pointers in the Tigers’ previous 11 games this season on 46 attempts. He doubled his season total in 13 tries on Monday to help MU head into a new decade with an 8-4 record.
Watson said he didn’t know that his performance was record-breaking until the Tigers’ public-address announcer told everyone in attendance at once just before the final whistle.
Upon hearing of the record, a bright smile came over Watson’s face on the bench as he couldn’t contain his excitement.
“My heart dropped a little bit; I’m not going to lie because I mean, that’s crazy, that’s a 3-point record,” Watson said of his emotions when the record-breaking announcement was made. “That’s a goal that you have as a kid to come here and break records for Mizzou.”
After missing his first three 3-point attempts of the game, seven of his next eight tries went through the rim.
Watson said he noticed that the Cougars weren’t properly guarding the corners of the court, and he posted up in that spot for several possessions.
In a 65-second stretch midway through the second half, Watson jumped from four 3-pointers to seven, tying the record with a trio of shots all from the corner right in front of the Missouri bench.
The record breaker occurred with 4:47 left in the game when Watson again found himself with space in the corner closest to his teammates.
“He’s really put the work in the past three weeks and to see his shot fall for him is good,” Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin said of Watson. “It’s good for our team. Our guys are happy to see him happy.”
Neither Watson nor Martin saw any adjustment that allowed for a sudden barrage from beyond the arc. Both attributed the performance to the work being put in when no one else is watching.
Over the last several weeks, Watson has said his brother can see how the slump is affecting him, it’s written on his face. Watson’s mother hasn’t missed a game this season, she only missed three during her son’s rookie campaign.
“Having her here and having her support and it meant a whole lot to me when she was here on the nights that I was missing,” Watson said. “I love to have here on the nights that I make (shots). But you really need your family, friends, teammates and coaches, everybody, to lift you up when you go into a slump. So, I really thank all of them for that.”
Watson said he’s put up at least 500 shots a day to try and regain his longball form, and teammate Mark Smith will text him in the middle of the night trying to figure out when they’ll go shoot together on most days.
Watson added that he’s trying to emulate with Smith has done in the gym to improve his all-around game as well.
It may have taken Watson longer than expected to adjust to the 3-point line being moved to 22 1/3 feet before the start of this season. After Monday’s outing, the Tigers know it’s possible for Watson to ignite the team with his sharpshooting ability.
More importantly, the slump, that’s in the past.
“You’re a different team because you have guys that can make plays off the dribble, you have guys that can shoot the ball,” Martin said of the dynamic Watson adds when his 3-pointers are successful. “I just think it opens up the game for you when you have guys that can make shots. Now (your opponents) have to defend a certain way, and that’s hard.”
Missouri’s 58-point win over Chicago State on Monday was its largest margin of victory since it defeated Chicago State by 72 in 1995.
The Tigers begin their Southeastern Conference slate by traveling to Rupp Arena for a matchup against No. 17 Kentucky on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. Central time.