No. 19 Missouri aims to continue ascent vs. South Carolina

NCAA Men's Basketball

The Missouri Tigers will try to take full advantage of center Jeremiah Tilmon’s inside strength when they host South Carolina on Tuesday in Columbia, Mo.

Tilmon recorded 14 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots as the 19th-ranked Tigers (8-2, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) posted a 68-52 victory at Texas A&M on Saturday.

“I’m so happy for him,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said. “The way he’s playing, the pace, the poise, the maturity, the things that he says in huddles and just all that, just makes you feel proud as a coach because he’s made progress every year. You start to see his hard work pay off.”

The Gamecocks (3-3, 1-1) returned from their latest coronavirus shutdown with an 85-80 loss at LSU on Saturday. They led for much of that game — their first since Jan. 6 — before struggling late.

“We got a little stagnant and the ball started to stick too much, and we were taking first pass shots,” said Bruce Shingler, who has been filling in as the South Carolina head coach while Frank Martin recovers from COVID-19.

“All we stressed all week was to move the ball. … I thought the last six or seven minutes of the game the ball stuck in our guys’ hands.”

Like South Carolina, the Tigers returned Saturday from a pandemic pause that caused them to postpone two SEC games.

Tilmon picked up where he left off before the break. He has scored 55 points and grabbed 27 rebounds in his last three games.

“If he’s that guy, there’s not many in America that’s better,” Martin said. “There might be some that’s just as good. But high level of player on both sides of the ball, and then doing it efficiently without fouling. Really impressive.”

On the other hand, the Tigers need more from guard Mark Smith. After averaging 17.3 points in his first four games, he has scored just 6.8 points per game in the past six.

“If he’s open from three every time, we need that ball to go up,” Martin said. “Because he can make shots. We need the ball to go in for Mark because he’s a guy that works extremely hard, works on his game, and he puts pressure on himself if his shot isn’t falling.”

South Carolina is paced by guard A.J. Lawson, who has scored 77 points in his last three games. He is averaging 18.5 points this season.

Forward Keyshawn Bryant returned Saturday and scored 26 points in his first game since Dec. 5. The Gamecocks were still missing forwards Alanzo Frink and Jalyn McCreary, and Shingler wasn’t sure if they would face the Tigers at Mizzou Arena.

The Gamecocks want to get point guard Jermaine Couisnard back on track after he scored a season-low five points at LSU on 1-for-8 shooting. He is averaging 12.5 points and 3.7 assists per game.

“Jermaine is a primary ballhandler and him getting in foul trouble early took away his rhythm and took him out of the flow,” Shingler said. “Early in the second half he made a three to get that boost back and then a foul right after that three. His rhythm was always disrupted. He’s our guy. We believe in him and I know he’ll be better.”

–Field Level Media

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