Date: Wednesday January 30th
Opponent: Missouri Tigers
Location: Auburn Arena
Network: SEC Network, Auburn Radio Network
Get to Know Missouri...
For more on Missouri, check out the Q&A I did with Rock M Nation to prepare for this game. The Tigers from Missouri come into Auburn a 10-8 overall, 1-5 in the SEC. Their last game was against LSU and they led by 14 with 2 minutes left but Murphy’s Law showed up and the Bayou Bengals were able to get out of Columbia with an unlikely OT victory.
Cuonzo Martin is in his 2nd season in Columbia and makes his first trip to Auburn as Missouri’s head coach. They were expected to be led by sophomore Jontay Porter this year but Porter tore his ACL in an exhibition game before the season started. That was a huge blow for Missouri as they looked like a team that had a chance to return to the NCAA Tournament for the 2nd consecutive year.
Missouri’s a unique team in the sense that while they are one of the slowest teams in the country when it comes to tempo, they’re an excellent 3-point shooting team. (Gulp, if you’re an Auburn fan). As a team, Missouri is shooting 38.4% from 3-point range. Each of the 6 Tigers that have attempted 30 or more 3s are shooting 33.9% or better from 3-point range. They are led in this category by sophomore guard (#13) Mark Smith at 47.5%. He missed the LSU game with an ankle injury but is expected to return for tonight’s game. Smith, who was cleared just before the season after transferring from Illinois, is second on the team averaging 12.6 points a game while nabbing 5.5 rebounds a game as well. Smith’s arrival has helped tremendously fill some of the void left by Porter.
Senior guard (#15) Jordan Geist is Missouri’s leading scorer at 13.9 points a game. He, like Smith, shoots a lot of 3-pointers and is a 36% 3-point shooter. Geist is coming into this game off a season high 25-point, 11 rebound performance against LSU.
The other double-digit scorer is sophomore forward (#23) Jeremiah Tilmon. At 6’10”, Tilmon averages 10.2 points and 5.8 rebounds a game this season. Seeing how Auburn has struggled against big guys without Austin Wiley, Tilmon may be the game’s X-factor.
A couple other guys to keep an eye on are senior forward (#24) Kevin Puryear, averaging 8.2 points a game while shooting 36.6% from 3-point range, and freshmen guard (#4) Javon Pickett who is averaging 8.1 points a game while shooting 33.9% from 3.
What to Look for from Auburn...
Look for Auburn to be extremely happy to be playing in the friendly confines of Auburn Arena. Our Tigers have played 4 of their first 6 SEC games on the road and went 1-3 in those 4 contests. Auburn plays 2 more home games after tonight against Alabama and Florida before hitting the road again February 9th at LSU.
Austin Wiley will miss his 4th straight game tonight so that means more minutes for Anfernee McLemore and Horace Spencer once again. It’s been a struggle defensively in the paint, the last few games for the Tigers. Reid Travis had a breakout performance against Auburn and has built off of that game since then. Chris Silva went for 30 points for South Carolina. Mississippi State got a bunch of easy baskets in the paint throughout the second half Saturday night. Ultimately, Auburn just has to play better on the defensive end and hopefully, they’ll get more production from the big guys tonight.
Bryce Brown only attempted 4 3-pointers Saturday night against Mississippi State and I think tonight he’ll turn it loose a bit more. He’s too good to have only 4 3-point attempts in a game as he’s not shooting over 40% from 3-point range on the season. In fact, the Bulldogs attempted more 3-pointers than Auburn did (30-21) and that’s something you don’t see very often against Auburn.
Finally, last week we saw glimpses of the Chuma Okeke we thought would be one of Auburn’s best players this year. On the season, Okeke is now averaging 10.4 points and 6.1 rebounds a game. He’s taken 10+ shots in his last 4 games and scored 10+ in each of those games including an SEC high 16 points Saturday night against Mississippi State. Auburn needs to get the ball to Okeke more frequently and let him be more of a scorer.
As much as I hope to see Auburn return to the fast tempo offense we all know and love, I feel like this will be a game that’s more likely to be played at Missouri’s tempo. With 2 excellent 3-point shooting teams on the court tonight, to me, it comes down to who makes their 3-pointers and how well Auburn fares against Puryear and Tilmon in the paint. With Auburn being back at home, this is a must-win game for them. With Auburn knowing what’s at stake, I expect Auburn to come out on top in this contest.
Auburn 71 Missouri 60