By Garrett Jones
Guess, Suggs see increased minutes in Virgin Islands:
After a win over Kennesaw State in the opening round of the Paradise Jam, head coach Cuonzo Martin had one message for freshman Christian Guess and junior Ronnie Suggs: be ready.
Originally two players considered “back-of-the rotation depth,” both Guess and Suggs had a combined one prior game of experience with Missouri.
That changed in last week’s tournament, which saw Suggs score his first career point, and Guess make his Tiger debut.
“You often try to reward a guy for the work they put in,” Martin said on Guess. “It was great for him to get that experience against tough competition.”
“You’ll see a lot of Ronnie,” Martin said on Suggs. “He’s a good basketball player. My two cents: a walk-on is a label, not who you are.”
Geist questionable for Tuesday’s game:
One of the most significant storylines this season has been the offensive play of senior point guard Jordan Geist.
He was named to the All-Tournament team at the Paradise Jam, and recorded outings of 24 and 21 points against Oregon State in the semifinal and No. 12 Kansas State in the semifinal.
Nonetheless, he left the Caribbean banged up. The team reported he suffered a minor back injury, and head coach Cuonzo Martin said Tuesday he hasn’t practiced since.
“He’s progressing well,” Martin said on Geist’s status. “(The injury) was a big issue. More than it showed, because he’s such strong competitor.”
Martin said he hopes Geist will practice soon. He leads Missouri in scoring with 12.8 points per game. **Editor’s note: An original version of this story said Geist was out 1-2 weeks with the injury, when in reality, Geist is only questionable for Tuesday’s game. KCOU regrets the error.**
Martin said he hopes freshman KJ Santos, who suffered a foot injury in the tournament, will return in “1 to 2 weeks.”
Tilmon, Nikko filling void left by Porter:
When sophomore forward Jontay Porter tore his ACL and MCL Oct. 21, ending his season before it even started, sophomore center Jeremiah Tilmon’s role indirectly, but vastly, expanded.
After averaging a whopping 3.7 personal fouls per game, the pressure was on Tilmon to dial it back on the defensive end, and expand his game offensively.
“It’d be great to have Jontay (Porter) out there,” Martin said. “But we have to be able to take the next step. The foul issues are still there with Jeremiah (Tilmon), but Reed (Nikko) has made tremendous strides.”
Through 5 games, Tilmon is averaging 8.2 PPG, the same clip as last season, but an improved 5.4 rebounds per game.
Nikko is averaging career highs in minutes per game (11.0) and points per game (4.o).
Temple (5-1, American Conference) is led by four-year contributor and senior guard Shizz Alston Jr., who averages 17.8 PPG.
Its only loss came in a slugfest to Virginia Commonwealth last Monday, but the Owls started their season 4-0, and boast a win over Martin’s former California team.
“They can obviously score the ball,” Martin said. “Similar to Iowa State. They’re really good on attacking off the dribble; one-on-one. That puts pressure on your defense.
Interestingly enough, Missouri and Temple average within .1 point per game within each other in defensive points per game allowed, at 65.5 and 65.6 PPG, respectively.
Something will have to give Tuesday night, when the Tigers take the floor against the Owls at Mizzou Arena. Tipoff is set for 8:00 pm, and the game will be televised on the SEC Network.