Just seven games in, the Missouri men’s basketball team is more than halfway to matching last season’s win total. But its veteran players don’t think the Tigers know how to win yet.
After a blowing a 16-point lead to No. 23 West Virginia on Sunday in the Advocare Invitational finals in Orlando, Fla., Missouri’s upperclassmen said the onus is on them to teach the Tigers’ young contributors how to handle those situations.
“We really have to learn how to finish games,” senior wing Jordan Barnett said. “You’re not suppose to lose a 16-point lead in eight minutes in any circumstance.”
Missouri shot the ball well against West Virginia and stayed close with the Mountaineers after senior guards Daxter Miles Jr. and Jevon Carter heated up.
For 34 minutes, the Tigers were able to hold their own against West Virginia’s tough full-court press but turned the ball over nine times in the final six minutes. The Mountaineers turned a number of those turnovers into points, which cost the Tigers the game.
“I think we got away from our principles as far as taking care of the ball,” junior Kevin Puryear said. “We were playing out of our own pace and let them speed us up, which is what they like to do.
“If we take care of the ball we win that game,” Robertson added. “We’re still learning how to win.”
A graduate transfer from Canisius, Robertson said he took the loss to West Virginia hard because he felt that he should have done more in crunch time as the team’s most experienced player. Carter said after the game on Sunday that he expects himself to take over in situations like that as West Virginia’s senior leader.
With Missouri leaning on young players such as Jeremiah Tilmon and Jontay Porter, who would be in high school had he not reclassified, Robertson said it’s up to the seniors to teach them how to finish games.
“It’s not anything easy at all. Me and Jordan are two seniors, and (Puryear)’s a pretty experienced guy,” Robertson said. “It’s definitely on us.”
Porter Jr. update
Mizzou coach Cuonzo Martin said he’s not sure if freshman Michael Porter Jr. will sit on the bench with the team in coming games and added it largely depends on how he’s feeling.
Martin said he was unaware of Porter’s cryptic Instagram post, which said the timetable for his return from back surgery might be different than previously believed, and was later deleted. Martin said he didn’t have a further update on Porter and needs to spend more time on the app. “I imagine Mike just feels good,” he said. “The most important thing is Mike’s health. The surgery was a success. I don’t have any information outside of that. I need to do more Instagramming.”
▪ In Orlando, Martin said he thought the team’s performance against Utah and Emporia State was affected by the uncertain status of Porter and his injury. Both Puryear and Robertson disagreed. “I think that’s a discredit to our guys you say that we were playing with fear that Mike is not going to be here at any point in the season,” Robertson said. “We ride with the guys on the court.”
▪ Missouri plays Thursday at Central Florida, which has one of the nation’s tallest players in 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall. Martin said Fall is tough to prep for because he’s a one-of-a-kind player. “You have to take away his strengths,” he said. “If he gets it around the rim there’s not much you can do.”
The Knights also have A.J Davis, who played for Martin for a year at Tennessee. Martin said the two still keep in touch.