No. 16 Missouri puts unbeaten record on line vs. Prairie View

NCAA Men's Basketball

The No. 16 Missouri Tigers will try to maintain their rare national ranking when they host the Prairie View A&M Panthers on Friday night in Columbia.

This week, the Tigers (5-0) cracked the Associated Press Top 25 poll for the first time since the 2013-14 season. They got there by upsetting Oregon in Omaha and Illinois at home in nonconference play.

They also have victories at Wichita State and reigning Atlantic Sun Conference champion Liberty at home

“We beat two ranked teams,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said after the Tigers beat the Illini 81-78 Saturday. “How many teams in America can say they beat two ranked teams? How many teams in America can say they won a true road game?”

The Panthers (1-2) won the last two Southwestern Athletic Conference regular-season titles while posting a combined 31-5 mark in league play. But they lost their top five scorers from last season’s squad and they were picked third in this year’s SWAC preseason poll.

Prairie View hasn’t played since Nov. 29, when it lost 86-64 at Louisville in the Wade Houston Classic. The Panthers also fell to Little Rock 71-66 and defeated Evansville 64-61 in that event.

The Panthers were scheduled to play two more games in Louisville but they departed due to a positive COVID-19 test on the team. They added the Missouri game after canceling contests against Western Kentucky, Grand Canyon and Murray State earlier this month.

“There’s regional schools, where we can go get a nice check and also have the chance to be competitive,” Prairie View coach Byron Smith told The Undefeated. “But the goal is to go out and compete against the best competition we can get. Revenue is important, and obviously we’re going to go out and try to bring in what we bring in, but the goal is to protect our team with the opportunity to be competitive.”

Both Prairie View and Missouri feature guard-driven offenses.

The Tigers are led by Mark Smith (14.8 points per game), Dru Smith (14.6) and Xavier Pinson (14.2). Wing player Javon Pickett scored 14 points off the bench against Illinois and forward Kobe Brown scored 12 points, as Missouri exploited its offensive depth.

“We expect guys to step up,” Dru Smith said. “We have guys waiting to come into the game to get that opportunity. Guys are going to have off nights. You can’t expect Mark (Smith) to come out and knock down six, seven 3s every single night. Just having that bench, having that depth is something we pride ourselves on.”

The Panthers are led by Jeremiah Gambrell Jr., who is averaging 11.7 points per game. D’Rell Roberts (11.3), Jawaun Daniels (10.0) and Faite Williams (9.3) are also enjoying productive starts.

Lenell Henry is Prairie View’s top inside player, but at 6-foot-8, 200 pounds, he’ll have his hands full with Missouri big men Jeremiah Tilmon (6-10, 260), Mitchell Smith (6-10, 221) and Jordan Wilmore (7-3, 245).

Tilmon and Mitchell Smith have combined to average 12.4 rebounds per game this season. Smith had seven rebounds, two blocks and a steal against the Illini and their 7-foot, 285-pound center Kofi Cockburn.

–Field Level Media

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