No. 19 Missouri looks to remain on roll at Auburn

No. 19 Missouri has recovered since absorbing a 15-point thrashing at Mississippi State and will take a three-game winning streak into Tuesday night’s Southeastern Conference clash at Auburn.

Missouri (10-2, 4-2 SEC) moved into second place in the conference behind Alabama with its win at Tennessee and LSU’s loss at Kentucky on Saturday night.

But Missouri’s trip to Auburn to face coach Bruce Pearl’s Tigers (9-7, 3-5) marks the beginning of a key stretch for coach Cuonzo Martin’s team. Mizzou steps out of conference play to host TCU in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge this Saturday and then hosts Kentucky and Alabama the following week.

Martin thinks Mizzou is ready for the challenge after an impressive 73-64 win at Tennessee last weekend. Missouri shot 53.3 percent from the field in the first half against the Volunteers before finishing at 43.9 percent and canned 8 of 19 3-point attempts.

Mizzou held the Vols to just 38.5 percent from the field in the second half and 43.8 for the game and forced them into 18 turnovers while making only 11.

“When we take care of the basketball, when we make consistent 3s, when we defend how we normally defend, I like our chances against anybody,” Martin said.

After scoring just 11 points in the loss at Mississippi State, Dru Smith led the way with 18 at Tennessee, giving him 49 points in the three-game winning streak.

“He’s doing a great job defending, shutting guys down,” Martin said, “and he’s scoring the ball,”

The trip to Auburn will be Mizzou’s last road game until going to Ole Miss on Feb. 10. Auburn is coming off a 109-86 rout of South Carolina on the road.

“It was a good win on the road,” Pearl said. “We’re making progress, getting better.”

Pearl’s Tigers improved to 3-2 since freshman point guard Sharife Cooper was cleared and gained eligibility for this season. Cooper had 16 points and dished out 12 assists against the Gamecocks, giving him 106 points (21.2 per-game average) and 45 assists in his five appearances.

He is just two assists short of tying for the team lead in the category for the season, and Auburn has averaged over 86.7 points a game and shot 47.6 percent in the five games since his debut.

“There’s a reason why he was the No. 1 recruit that Auburn has ever signed,” Pearl said. “Expectations were high.

“We didn’t complain a lot when he wasn’t available because he wasn’t available. We had to coach the guys we had, and I was proud of those guys for going 6-2 in the non-conference — knowing what he does to us, what he does to everybody else.”

Allen Flanigan scored a career-high 24 points to lead five Auburn Tigers in double figures in the win at South Carolina.

“We came out in the second half and didn’t take our foot off the gas, particularly offensively,” Pearl said.

–Field Level Media