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#11 Auburn at Missouri Game Preview and Open Thread

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Auburn heads back on the road to take on another group of Tigers.

NCAA Basketball: Auburn at Mississippi Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Saturday February 15th

Opponent: Missouri Tigers

Location: Mizzou Arena - Columbia, Missouri

Time: 5PM

Network: ESPN2, Auburn Radio Network

On Wednesday night, Auburn won their 22nd game of the season, matching last season’s total of wins in the regular season when they finished 22-9. It’s quite remarkable how Auburn has gotten to this point and even more remarkable is how the last 5 games have played out. Auburn has gone to Overtime in 4 of the last 5 games, including 3 in a row and won all of them. But now Auburn has to hit the road and deal with some more adversity due to Isaac Okoro’s hamstring injury.

It appears that Auburn will be without Okoro at least for today. There’s no timetable on his return as Okoro pulled his hamstring late in the win over Alabama. That said, it appears Auburn dodged a major bullet in that nothing is torn and hopefully, we will see Okoro back on the court sooner rather than later.

Get to Know Missouri

As for Missouri, it’s been a tough season in CoMo. Missouri comes into tonight’s game 11-13 and 3-8 in the SEC. Missouri averages just 66.5 PPG and has scored 80+ on just 4 occasions this year. Missouri comes off a game in Baton Rouge and which they pushed LSU to the limit and led a good portion of it before losing by 4.

Mizzou will be without 2 of their top 4 scorers, as Mark Smith and Jeremiah Tillmon have both been ruled out for today’s contest. Smith averages 10.9 PPG and Tillmon averages 8.5 PPG and is one of Mizzou’s best big men.

Junior Guard Dru Smith (#12) - 11.7 PPG

Dru Smith spent his first 2 years of college ball playing at Evansville before transferring to Mizzou and sitting out all of last season. In 2017-18, he was the Missouri Valley Conference’s best 3-point shooter at 48.2%. He’s just a 32.2% shooter this year but he’s certainly capable of getting hot from distance. (And a lot of teams have seemingly done that against Auburn this year). He’s also a 90% free throw shooter and leads the team in assists, steals and is 2nd on the team in rebounds.

Sophomore Guard Xavier Pinson (#1) - 8.6 PPG

Pinson has started just 5 games this year but is Mizzou’s 3rd leading scorer behind the Smiths (Dru and Mark). In their win over Arkansas last Saturday, Pinson had a season high 24 points and 7 rebounds. Pinson had a season high 7 assists in their last outing at LSU so Pinson is playing well for Mizzou right now.

Sophomore Guard Javon Pickett (#4) - 7.6 PPG

Pickett had his best game of the season in a win over Illinois, the Tigers best win of the season, scoring 17 points and also had 6 rebounds in that one.

Freshmen Forward Kobe Brown (#24) - 5.7 PPG

Senior Forward Reed Nikko (#14) - 4.5 PPG

Also keep an eye on Torrence Watson as he’s averaging 5.1 PPG this year, but had 20 in the SEC Tournament against Auburn last year. He’s also taken the most 3-pointers among Missouri players that will suit up today.

Keys For Auburn

Who steps up for Isaac Okoro? It appears Danjel Purifoy will be 100% after missing the LSU game and playing limited minutes against Alabama due to the flu. Auburn really missed Purifoy’s defense the last 2 games and hopefully, he will able to get back to playing defense the way he has for most of the season.

Austin Wiley had 18 points and 17 rebounds against Alabama and looks to have another favorable matchup in the paint for this contest. Look for Auburn to continue to get Wiley the ball as long as he stays out of foul trouble.

Anfernee McLemore scored the first 8 points for Auburn on Wednesday and I would imagine he stays in the starting lineup with Okoro out.

Devan Cambridge’s role will increase today and he got the minutes late when Okoro went down. He had 10 points in 28 minutes and made a pair of 3-pointers against Alabama. After going scoreless in his 4 previous games prior to scoring 21 against LSU, Cambridge has shown he can provide some much needed scoring off of Auburn’s bench.

Prediction

Auburn has had been incredibly good in close games this season. Auburn is 8-0 in games decided by 4 points or less. After such an emotional win over Alabama and without Okoro, this one will likely be tougher than most may expect. Missouri doesn’t shoot particularly well but I fully expect for Auburn to get Missouri’s best shot, especially with the game in Columbia. I think Auburn has the veteran pieces in Wiley and a big shot late from J’Von McCormick to pull out another game late.

Auburn 73 Missouri 67