By Ethan Burke
After an eight-month offseason, Cuonzo Martin’s squad was eager to return to the basketball court as they dismantled the Oral Robert Golden Eagles 91-64 on opening night. The Tigers have shown to be a more versatile team this season after dominating the Golden Eagles on the glass and from 3-point range, which are both categories that Missouri struggled in last season.
Missouri’s backcourt, led by Xavier Pinson and Dru Smith, will pose problems for opponents. Pinson kicked off his junior campaign by recording 17 points and 4 assists, and Smith began his senior year by putting up 16 points and 5 rebounds. One thing that has changed is that the Tigers have become a more fast-break offense. Last season, the Tigers game plan revolved around a more half court offense but, with Pinson and Smith gaining more experience and maturity, Martin feels more confident that his team can get out in transition and wear out their opponents.
One of Missouri’s main problems last season (like I said before) was 3-point shooting. Overall last season, the Tigers shot 29% from 3-point range. Tonight, Missouri shot 40%, led by senior guard Mark Smith (4/6) and junior guard Torrence Watson who finished (2/5). Obviously Oral Roberts won’t be the toughest opponent that the Tigers face this season, but if they can build off this performance and keep developing from the perimeter then their offense will be hard to stop.
Missouri has also seemed to improve on its other issue from last season: rebounding. With Jeremiah Tilmon out with an injury for a lot of last season, the Tigers were hurt badly in the paint. Tilmon began his final year with an 8 point and 12 rebound performance, and along with Tilmon is sophomore forward Kobe Brown, who is ready for a breakout season as he gained some weight in muscle and is more experienced. Missouri also has a nice addition of the seven foot, three inch Atlanta, Georgia native Jordan Wilmore, who didn’t see a lot of time tonight but is expected to increase his role as the season progresses.
Overall, I expect the Tigers to keep the wins coming along and improve off of last season as Missouri has most of their roster back and improved off their weaknesses. Of course with the COVID 19 pandemic everything seems uncertain, but for right now Tiger fans should be excited as their team hopes to compete for a spot in the NCAA tournament.
Edited by Emma Moloney