Missouri eyes breakthrough, but No. 11 Auburn is on a roll

NCAA Basketball

Four victories during Auburn’s current seven-game winning streak have come in overtime, leaving the No. 11 Tigers to credit not only sound fundamentals, but strength coach Damon Davis, too.

“When we get into overtime, that’s advantage: us. Because we put in the work over the summer,” senior guard Samir Doughty said.

Tied with Kentucky and LSU atop the Southeastern Conference standings, Auburn will look to keep rolling when it travels to struggling Missouri on Saturday evening.

Missouri has lost three of four, but nearly upset LSU in its most recent game. Missouri led by as many as 12 points late in the first half, before faltering down the stretch and losing 82-78 in Baton Rouge.

“Our guys did a tremendous job, but just came up short,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said. “It’s a tough one.”

Martin emphasized the importance of resilience especially with his team pushing LSU to the brink despite being short-handed. Again missing guard Mark Smith (lower back) and center Jeremiah Tilmon (foot stress fracture), the Tigers nearly persevered as Dru Smith battled foul trouble and a sore ankle en route to a team-high 20 points.

Similarly, Martin’s counterpart, Auburn coach Bruce Pearl, challenged his team to remain focused in approaching the regular season stretch run on the heels of Wednesday’s 95-91 home overtime win against Alabama.

Freshman Isaac Okoro, who suffered a pulled hamstring against the Crimson Tide, didn’t practice Thursday, Pearl told Inside the Auburn Tigers, adding that it is “definitely too early to know how long he will be out.”

“I doubt he practices (Friday), and that will determine if he can go on the trip (to Missouri). … Every hamstring pull is different. Some are longer vs. shorter as far as where it is on the muscle, and they all heal very, very differently,” Pearl said.

Auburn defeated Alabama despite the Crimson Tide’s record-setting effort from beyond the arc. Alabama established league marks for single-game makes and attempts from 3-point range in shooting 22-for-59 from deep.

Pearl said it was difficult for the Tigers to guard the Crimson Tide man-to-man because the visitors’ size disadvantage allowed them to spread the floor.

“They shot it great, but they still missed 37,” Pearl said. “That’s a lot of shots to miss.”

Okoro led five players in double figures with 19 points. The status of forward Danjel Purifoy also is uncertain for Saturday, as Pearl said Wednesday that Purifoy would go through a postgame workout to test his stamina.

The senior was limited to nine minutes against Alabama after returning from the flu.

Auburn has defeated Missouri in five of the schools’ past six meetings, including three straight.

After Missouri outscored LSU 42-38 in the paint and held a slight rebounding edge, Martin knows his players can meet Saturday’s challenge. Still, he reiterated the importance of keeping things together in order to close games.

“When you’re going toe to toe against one of the better teams in our league, your margin for error is so slim,” Martin said. “We’ve got to get those box-outs, got to make those plays down the stretch. They made those plays to win the game.”

–Field Level Media

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