Tigers On the Road at Missouri Today
Can the Tigers Win without Isaac Okoro?
War Eagle, everybody! Today the Auburn Tigers leave the soggy south and head to Missouri Arena for a battle of Tigers. It has been a harrowing week of close Auburn wins, but it has not been without cost. The Tigers weathered a couple of hits at the forward positions, with Danjel Purifoy nullified by flu and the hamstring injury to Isaac Okoro late in the Alabama game.
I would imagine that Purifoy will be ready to go today. He played about 9 minutes in the Alabama game and scored 3 points but wasn’t really his usual self. With 3 more days to recover, he should be ready to go, given how good Auburn’s nutrition and strength programs have been in recent years. I do not think Okoro will play today as hamstrings are tough to heal. We might not see him back full strength until tournament time.
What Auburn does having coming into this game is starters J’Von McCormick, Samir Doughty and Austin Wiley playing at a high level. Wiley dominated the lane against Alabama, grabbing 17 rebounds and blocking 5 shots. Even when Wiley wasn’t recording stats, he altered most shots Alabama took around the goal and completely nullified Bama’s inside game. McCormick and Doughty make a great guard tandem as either can run the point. This prevents teams from attacking the point guard and causing turnovers. Auburn has really benefited this season with most of the players on the court able to handle the ball and dribble it up the court if necessary.
With Okoro out, I would expect that Anfernee McLemore will get the start at forward. That means both McLemore and Wiley will be playing more minutes. Auburn will also need more help from the bench from guys like Devan Cambridge, Allen Flanigan and, possibly, Jaylin Williams.
Auburn is not the only team with players out. Missouri’s 2 scorers, Mark Smith (10.9 points per game) and Jeremiah Tillmon (8.5), of its top 4 are likely to miss this game due to injury. Tillmon is probably the best Mizzou big man and will be missed in the paint. With Austin Wiley coming to town, that’s not good for the home Tigers.
After Alabama shot a record 59 3-point attempts, Missouri’s 3-guard lineup is concerning. They will occasionally get hot and keep Missouri in the game. Dru Smith is the best of the 3 and leads the team in assists and steals. He is also, incredibly, 2nd on the team in rebounds.
Missouri’s forwards are not big scorers but will fight and play scrappy defense. Expect to see some mix of Torrence Watson, Reed Nikko and freshman Kobe Brown on the floor. Watson in particular is a guy that can occasionally step back and hit a big 3-point shot.
On paper, Auburn should win this game, but it is on the road, and Missouri plays better at home with a 9–3 record. Auburn’s played a number of close games lately and might be due for a letdown. On the other hand, you can’t count out how tough Auburn has been in the closing minutes in those games. I think Auburn will hold on and win this game, but it likely won’t be pretty.
This game tips off at 5:00 PM today and will be televised on ESPN-2. I’m going to put an open thread on this post, and I’ll try to fire off updates. I won’t be able to do a full play by play, but I will be watching.