Three things Missouri must do to beat Auburn on Saturday

Like former football coach Gary Pinkel used to say, “you have to take it one game at a time.”
Missouri Tigers basketball coach Kim Anderson watches the action from the bench during the game against the Nebraska Omaha Mavericks on Dec. 9 at the Mizzou Arena. The Tigers won 85-78 and have gone 2-3 since.

The Missouri men’s basketball team will host their first Southeastern Conference game against Auburn on Saturday at Mizzou Arena. Following Wednesday’s loss to Georgia, many questions surround the Missouri (7-7, 0-1) program.

Fans have questioned Mizzou’s improvement, coach Kim Anderson and the freshmen in recent weeks, but against the Auburn Tigers (7-6, 1-1) on Saturday at 8 p.m. on ESPN2, Mizzou will get another shot at addressing those questions. Here are three things that Mizzou needs to do to win that game:

Play with confidence: Look, among all things to start with, it has to be this. Missouri is coming off of a 77-59 shellacking from Georgia this Wednesday. The Tigers couldn’t score, the Tigers couldn’t play defense and their performance garnered its fair share of backlash on social media. But like former football coach Gary Pinkel used to say, “you have to take it one game at a time.”

That Georgia loss is over, and Missouri will need to put that behind them. Sophomore guard Namon Wright had a tough time scoring the ball, and he’ll need to move past it. Junior forward Russell Woods got into some early foul trouble, and that’s something he can’t think of. Anderson even took some heat, and that’s something that should not matter when the tip off comes on Saturday night.

Contain Kareem Canty: Auburn scoring threat Kareem Canty — the 6-foot-1 junior guard from Harlem, New York — has what some call “in the gym” range. Canty is as an elite 3-point threat as the Tigers have seen all season, so containing him is going to be key.

How do you do that? Well, it starts with the defensive play from Mizzou freshman guards Terrence Phillips and KJ Walton. Presumably, Phillips will take the early job in guarding Canty. For Phillips, the question is, can he stay out of foul trouble? That’s been an issue for Mizzou this entire season, and that’s something to watch.

Walton on the other hand is more lengthy, which might match up better with Canty. He provides length that will cause Canty to shoot with a hand in his face, but that hand in his face must be there all night long for Mizzou to succeed defensively.

Feed Kevin Puryear: There was a spurt in the second half of Georgia game where freshman forward Kevin Puryear scored three straight layups. That stretch was arguably the most effective scoring stint for Missouri on Wednesday.

When Puryear receives the ball on offense, he’s shooting 50.8-percent from the floor. The problem is, he’s averaging 8.4 attempts per game, which really isn’t enough.

As Mizzou’s leading scorer averaging 12.4 points per game, Puryear should be getting more touches in the paint. Against an Auburn team that has great physical talent down low, Missouri must try to establish a paint presence on offense to win this game.

Projected Starters

Missouri

G - Terrence Phillips, 5'11, 175, Fr.

G - Wes Clark, 6'0, 180, Jr.

G - KJ Walton, 6-3, 197, Fr.

F - Kevin Puryear, 6-7, 236, Fr.

F - Russell Woods, 6-8, 225, Jr.

Auburn

G - Kareem Canty, 6'1, 185, Jr. (19.5 ppg, 5.8 apg, 2.5 rpg)

G - Bryce Brown, 6'3, 195, Fr. (10.2 ppg)

G - Horace Spencer, 6'9, 220, Fr. (4.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg)

F - Jordon Granger, 6'8, 220, Sr. (2.9 ppg, 1.7 rpg)

F - Tyler Harris, 6'10, 228, Sr. (15.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg)

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