Antoine Mason will miss tonight's game in Columbia against the Missouri Tigers as he remains with family in the wake of his father's passing, but despite the current circumstances, Auburn might be able to squeak by without him. Missouri (8-21, 2-14 SEC) sits at the bottom of the table in the SEC, and Auburn (12-17, 4-12 SEC) has already beaten these yellow-colored Tigers once at home. A sweep of the last-place team in the SEC should be a no-brainer, but with key injuries, off-the-court tragedy, and a lack of consistent fundamentals in SEC play, Auburn rolls into Mizzou Arena a little more wearily than fans might've hoped at this point in the season.
Your heart breaks for players like Mason, who lost his father this weekend to complications from congestive heart failure. As a fan, you wish things had gone better this season for players like 1000-point hero KT Harrell, a scrappy Tahj Shamsid-Deen, a developing Jordon Granger, and a seemingly monstrous Cinmeon Bowers. And while this team might lack a little discipline here and there on the court, it does possess one thing, and that's heart.
Perhaps that'll be the push these boys need as they take on Missouri tonight. With the passing of Anthony Mason on Saturday morning, it's possible that the players genuinely couldn't process the tragedy ripping through their brother's heart as they let Texas A&M run away with the evening's game. With a few days of rest and hopefully a refreshed team mindset, Auburn fans will want to see Pearl's squad pull together and win one for Antoine.
On the court, it's certainly possible. Even without Mason on the floor, KT Harrell is still averaging almost 18 points per game, and while Cinmeon Bowers has somewhat declined in form during SEC play, he still remains a presence for Auburn in the paint—Mizzou will still have to find a way to guard him. The team's leading rebounder will have to find a way to put together one of his most consistent games yet, however, in the absence of a strong supporting cast that's been plagued by injury.
For Missouri, it's simple. Johnathan Williams III leads the team in points and rebounds, so they will rely heavily on the sophomore forward to make an impact early in front of a home crowd. Auburn will benefit from getting ahead early, which will mean smart shooting, consistent rebounding, and most importantly, disciplined transition defense. Additionally, fans expect to see Malcolm Canada play a more controlled, more complete game.
In the end, there's nothing unusual about the game plan. Stay disciplined, and play 40 minutes of smart, fundamental basketball. If Auburn can remain focused in Columbia tonight, expect Pearl and his troops to pull together and win one on the road to sweep the Missouri Tigers for their teammate, Antoine Mason. War Damn Eagle.
Auburn vs. Missouri
When: 8:00 PM CDT
Watch: SEC Network
Stream: WatchESPN / ESPN3
Listen: Auburn IMG Network