Mizzou at Central Florida
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: CFE Arena in Orlando, Fla.
Radio: KMBZ (98.1 FM)
About Missouri (5-2): In the wake of news that its star player, freshman Michael Porter Jr., would “likely” miss the rest of the season after undergoing back surgery, Missouri went 2-1 in the AdvoCare Invitational in Orlando last week. The Tigers blew a 16-point lead in the final 8 minutes of the tournament’s championship game, against No. 23 West Virginia, which might have the best defense Missouri will face all season. Mizzou’s veterans and scoring leaders — Kassius Robertson, Kevin Puryear and Jordan Barnett — said the Tigers, a team filled with young players and players who spent most of the past few seasons losing, are still learning to win tight games against good teams.
Robertson and Barnett both came out of shooting slumps during the tournament in Orlando, and Robertson, a prolific three-point shooter, has now made 40 percent of his shots from beyond the arc this season. MU coach Cuonzo Martin is still sorting out his point guard rotations. Blake Harris started each of Missouri’s games during the AdvoCare Invitational, but Martin has opted for more veteran players over Harris late in close games, including junior Jordan Geist. Harris played a combined 14 minutes in Mizzou’s final two games of the tournament.
About Central Florida (4-2): The Knights were also part of the AdvoCare Invitational, but they did not face Missouri during the tournament and went 2-2. Their center, 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall will pose a big challenge — literally — for Missouri freshman center Jeremiah Tilmon, who is athletic but foul-prone.
Senior forward A.J. Davis, who played for Martin as a freshman at Tennessee, averages a double-double (10.3 points and 11.0 rebounds), and he leads his team in minutes. He has grabbed at least 10 rebounds in every game this season. Davis is not a very efficient shooter, but Martin said the Tigers will need to identify and stop him in transition.