Tigers look to bounce back against Emporia State
Cuonzo Martin and Missouri players preached a “one-game-at-a-time” mentality throughout the preseason, and, after a 77-59 loss at Utah on Thursday, they’ll have a chance to manifest that attitude at 7 p.m. Monday, when the Tigers host Emporia State.
Monday’s contest tilts heavily in the Tigers’ favor regardless of whether freshman Michael Porter Jr. plays. The 6-foot-10 forward missed the last two games because of a leg injury and played all of 100 seconds in Missouri’s opening win over Iowa State.
Missouri has been hush-hush about the injury, and Martin and the team spokesperson have continued to assess Porter Jr.’s status as “day-to-day.” His status will be updated Monday morning, a team spokesperson said.
Without the star freshman, the Tigers’ 18-point loss to Pac-12 Conference foe Utah proved sobering for a team coming off two comfortable wins. Missouri (2-1) lacked offensive production. It couldn’t seem to defend the Utes’ big men. And, after trailing early and shooting poorly, the Tigers never really had a chance to get back in the game.
Even so, after the Tigers’ big men allowed Utah’s starting forwards to rack up 39 points, Martin said in his postgame statements streamed by The Kansas City Star that the game was a “great lesson” for his young players.
Emporia State (2-2) is coming off back-to-back wins over Kansas Wesleyan and Drury, but they’ll likely struggle stopping Missouri’s forwards. The Hornets’ tallest player is 6-8 junior Hassan Thomas.
The Tigers, without Porter Jr., boast four players 6-10 or taller — Jeremiah Tilmon, Jontay Porter, Reed Nikko and Mitchell Smith, whom Martin wants to redshirt this season. Porter and Tilmon struggled against Utah’s 24-year-old forward, David Collette, on Thursday — Tilmon recorded five fouls in just six minutes of play, and the two combined for just eight points. Tilmon also fouled out against Wagner in 10 minutes.
A positive for Missouri was the play of sophomore center Nikko, who scored eight points, grabbed nine rebounds and played 21 minutes in the loss to Utah.
Martin said keeping the physical presence of Tilmon on the floor will be key for the Tigers to find offensive rhythm. He’s averaging just shy of 14 minutes per game because of foul trouble.
Emporia State lost its first two games then bounced back and won the next two. The Hornets also faced Iowa State in a preseason scrimmage, which they lost 77-68.
Projected starters — Missouri
F Kevin Puryear — 6-7, 238 pounds
F Jordan Barnett — 6-7, 215
F Jeremiah Tilmon — 6-10, 252
G Cullen VanLeer — 6-4, 208
G Kassius Robertson — 6-3, 180
Projected starters — Emporia State
F Stephaun Limuel — 6-6, 200
F Hassan Thomas — 6-8, 210
G Brandon Hall — 5-11, 180
G Grant Shell — 6-3, 190
G Brian Morton — 6-1, 180
When: 7 p.m. Monday
Where: Mizzou Arena
Watch: SEC Network+
Listen: 96.7 FM, 105.1 FM, 1580 AM; MUTigers.com