It’s Year Three of the Cuonzo Martin-era in Missouri. The first two years of his tenure have been marred by significant injuries, but he’s also led the Tigers to an NCAA Tournament appearance during that span. Can the Tigers get off to a good start with a victory over the new-look Norse on Friday night?
Horn faced with challenge of replacing McDonald, BrannenNorthern Kentucky comes into the season missing two key cogs from last year’s conference championship run. Leading scorer and rebounder Drew McDonald graduated after winning Horizon League Player of the Year last season and head coach John Brannen moved on to greener pastures to coach down the road at Cincinnati. To replace Brannen, the Norse hired former South Carolina head coach Darrin Horn, who spent last season as an assistant at Texas under Shaka Smart. Horn will have some big shoes to fill, as Brannen led the school to a 26-9 record and a 13-5 mark in Horizon League play last year en route to an NCAA Tournament bid.
The absence of McDonald, and his backup Chris Vogt, who left with Brannen to Cincinnati, will force this year’s group to play a different style of basketball. Under Horn, the Norse are expected to play faster and apply more pressure defensively in an effort to force turnovers, making the post-game a thing of the past.
Northern Kentucky opened the season with a 105-55 victory over D-II Cincinnati Clermont on Tuesday. Senior Tyler Sharpe led all starters with 19 points and sophomore guard Bryson Langdon came off the bench to lead all scorers with 20 points. Sharpe was joined the starting lineup by juniors Silas Adheke, Jalen Tate and Dantez Walker while sophomore Trevon Faulkner rounded out the starting lineup.
Dru Smith, Jeremiah Tilmon expected to breakout for TigersMissouri opened the season with an 82-42 victory over Incarnate Word on Wednesday night. Missouri went with its three returning starters from last year’s team in the starting lineup: Mark Smith, Javon Pickett, and Jeremiah Tilmon. Dru Smith started at the point guard spot while freshman Kobe Brown got the nod at the power forward spot thanks to his college-ready build. Tilmon led the team in points with 16 points and five blocked shots in 20 minutes while sophomore guard Xavier Pinson came off the bench to chip in 17 for the Tigers, who limited Incarnate Word to just 26.8 percent shooting from the field on the night.
Watch: Jeremiah Tilmon comes up with a big block and Tray Jackson slams it home on the other end. pic.twitter.com/OFqFIL7dio— Andrew Kauffman (@AndrewABC17) November 7, 2019
Most media pundits peg Smith as a breakout candidate for the Tigers this season. A transfer from Evansville, Smith shot a smooth 57.8 percent from the field and 48.2 percent from the 3-point line while scoring 13.7 points for the Purple Aces in 2017-18. The 6-foot-3 point guard also averaged 4.6 assists per game and figures to be the team’s top playmaker this season. He put together a solid all-around performance in the opener, scoring eight points while adding five assists and four rebounds in 25 minutes of action.
It’s hard to evaluate Missouri against a poor team but if there was one surprising takeaway about their game versus Incarnate Word, it was their willingness to let it fly from long-range. The Tigers shot nearly 50 percent of their total field goal attempts from beyond the arc in that game after shooting 41.2 percent of their total attempts from distance last season (103rd in the NCAA).
- Norse are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
- Norse are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 Friday games.
- Norse are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 non-conference games.
- Tigers are 6-0-1 ATS in their last 7 non-conference games.
- Tigers are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 home games.