Mizzou gets track test from ORU to open season

NCAA Basketball

Mizzou gets track test from ORU to open season

The Missouri Tigers will face an up-tempo test Wednesday when they host the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles on college basketball’s opening night.

The Golden Eagles figure to push the pace at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo. They averaged 80.2 points per game last season, 10th-highest among the 353 NCAA Division I teams.

Fourth-year coach Paul Mills produced the school’s first winning record since 2014-15 by emphasizing man-to-man defensive pressure and transition scoring.

The Golden Eagles (17-14 overall, 9-7 Summit League last season) are seeking to build on that breakthrough. They were picked second in their conference’s 2020-21 preseason poll.

Tigers coach Cuonzo Martin, also in his fourth year on the job, is seeking offensive improvement after his team averaged just 67.1 points last season — which ranked 287th.

The Tigers (15-16, 7-11 Southeastern Conference) return their top seven scorers from a year ago, including junior guard Xavier Pinson (11.1 points per game) and senior guards Dru Smith (12.7) and Mark Smith (10.0).

Graduate transfer guard Drew Buggs set the career assist record at Hawaii with 437 in three years. The Tigers hope he can push the team into a higher gear.

“He’s a guy who’d rather pass the ball and make plays,” Martin said. “He forces guys to run because he’s a very willing passer.”

The team’s X-factor is senior center Jeremiah Tilmon, who has been dogged by foul trouble, inconsistent effort and injuries.

“Being older, understanding, seeing life clearly, he knows the importance of winning,” Martin told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “As a young guy, you feel a certain way about how it should be played. Then you realize, well, that’s not the case. It’s harder than I thought. I have to make adjustments on my life, on and off the court. All of those things matter. You continue to grow. You will see a guy who has.”

Oral Roberts returns junior forward Kevin Obanor, a preseason first-team all-Summit selection, and sophomore guard Max Abmas, a second-team pick. Obanor averaged 12.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game while Abmas scored 14.5 per game.

Among the key Golden Eagles additions is graduate transfer guard RJ Glasper, who spent a redshirt year at Arkansas and then scored 1,531 points in three seasons at Division II Arkansas Tech.

“My style of play is fast and with space,” Glasper said. “So I feel like that fits our team as coach wants to play with pace and space.”

–Field Level Media

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