University of Missouri

Missouri-Auburn basketball preview

Updated: 2014-01-11T01:13:34Z

• WHEN/ WHERE: 1 p.m. Saturday at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala.

• TV/RADI O: ESPNU; KMBZ (980 AM, 98.1 FM)

• ABOUT MISSOURI (12-2, 0-1 SEC) : The opening stretch of SEC play was supposed to be a cakewalk for Missouri, which drew the conference’s two worst teams based on RPI right off the bat. Of course, Georgia’s stunning overtime victory Wednesday at Mizzou Arena debunked that notion. Missouri needs to get back on track for its already-flagging conference title hopes and NCAA Tournament ambitions. Junior Jordan Clarkson has struggled in the last two games, averaging 11.5 points and only two assists while shooting nine for 26 overall, one of seven from three-point range and four of nine from the free-throw line. He remains the Tigers’ most important player, so a bounce-back performance would go a long way toward returning to the win column.

• ABOUT AUBURN (8-4, 0-1 SEC): Scoring isn’t an issue for Auburn, which boasts the conference’s leading 1-2 punch in senior Chris Denson (19.8) and junior KT Harrell (18.7). Both rank among the SEC’s top five scorers this season. It’s a reason for concern for Missouri, which was carved up at times by Georgia sophomore Charles Mann on Wednesday. Of course, defense is an altogether different subject for Auburn, which allows more than 70 points per game. Coach Tony Barbee’s squad ranks 13th among 14 SEC teams in field-goal percentage defense (.423), while Missouri is the second-best shooting team in the conference (.481).

• BOTTOM LINE: Missouri junior Jabari Brown and senior Earnest Ross combined for only seven rebounds in the loss to Georgia, which racked up 15 offensive rebounds and won 43-34 on the boards overall. The duo had been averaging well over 11 rebounds combined, so that’s a good staring point for improving on the glass. The Tigers, who won the only previous meeting between the programs last season, still lead the SEC in defensive rebounding percentage (.713), so clearly the effort has been there most of the season. MU coach Frank Haith said he wants to see more toughness after the debacle against Georgia. There’s no better way to demonstrate it than dominating the boards.

PNo.MissouriHt.Yr.PPG
F3Johnathan Williams III6-9Fr.6.7
F44Ryan Rosburg6-10So.4.9
G5Jordan Clarkson6-5Jr.18.8
G32Jabari Brown6-5Jr.18.4
G33Earnest Ross6-5Sr.14.1

PNo.AuburnHt.Yr.PPG
F2Allen Payne6-6Sr.6.9
C0Asauhn Dixon-Tatum7-0Sr.6.3
G1KT Harrell6-4Jr.18.7
G3Chris Denson6-2Sr.19.8
G13Tahj Shamsid-Deen5-10Fr.7.8

| Tod Palmer, tpalmer@kcstar.com

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