Three things to watch as Missouri men’s basketball takes on LSU

LSU’s Ben Simmons is averaging 19.6 points per game and 11.8 rebounds per game, so yes, he’s a hard guard for anybody.
Missouri guard Terrence Phillips (1) attempts to fake out charging South Carolina defenders before going up for a layup on Feb. 16 in Mizzou arena.

Two games remain in the 2015–16 Missouri men’s basketball season against two Southeastern Conference teams engulfed by the NCAA Tournament bubble: LSU and Florida.

Tuesday night’s matchup for Missouri (10-19, 3-13 SEC) will be the former against the projected No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, Ben Simmons, and his LSU Tigers (17-12, 10-6 SEC). This will be the first and only matchup between the two this year, and the Tigers in black and gold will challenged as they travel to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Here are three things to watch come tip-off:

Channel the inner rivalry

Both Missouri and LSU are the Tigers, yes, but that’s not the rivalry I’m referring to. Terrence Phillips, the 5-foot-11 freshman point guard for Missouri, and Simmons, the 6-foot-10 freshman forward, faced off multiple times in high school.

In both 2014 and 2015, Phillips’ Oak Hill Academy faced Simmons’ Montverde Academy in the championship of the DICK’s Sporting Goods High School National Tournament. And in both 2014 and 2015, Montverde emerged victorious and Simmons was named the MVP.

“I guess you could say it’s a little motivation going in there,” said Phillips, who scored a team-high 15 points in each of the title games. “Ben’s my guy, but it’s just going to be two guys competing on Tuesday.”

Come 8 p.m. Tuesday night, the two Tigers will face off and both players’ history will be with them.

Make Simmons a jump shooter

Simmons is averaging 19.6 points per game and 11.8 rebounds per game, so yes, he’s a hard guard for anybody. But having said that, forcing Simmons to take jump-shots will be critical for Missouri’s defensive success.

It’ll be interesting to see who coach Kim Anderson prodds as Simmons’ defender, but it’s safe to assume freshman forward Kevin Puryear at 6-foot-8 would have the ability to guard Simmons both on the perimeter and in the paint.

For Missouri to succeed in upsetting the purple and gold on Tuesday, they must force Simmons to shoot jumpers.

Embrace the underdog role

Missouri has two games left, and in a season that’s brought suspensions, self-imposed NCAA violations, dismissals and even transfers, Mizzou is playing for pride.

“We’re going to try to ruin some teams’ records,” sophomore guard Namon Wright said after the South Carolina win two weeks ago.

Missouri will have the chance to do just that against LSU at 8 p.m. Tuesday on the SEC Network.

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