As key players debut, Missouri hosts Kansas City

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With the basketball season still taking baby steps, most college teams carry incomplete grades. Yet for Missouri, incomplete is another characteristic altogether.

The Tigers hope that three players who missed the season opener can make debuts Monday against Kansas City in Columbia. Mo, including a key transfer coach Cuonzo Martin hopes contributes mightily.

DaJuan Gordon, a Kansas State transfer, missed the 78-68 season-opening victory over Central Michigan while serving a one-game suspension imposed by the NCAA. Martin underscored the value Gordon provides after he contributed 9.1 points and 5.5 rebounds in an average of 28 minutes of action last season for Kansas State.

Martin called Gordon "a defensive stopper," and "probably one of your better guys driving the ball and making plays, and arguably your best offensive rebounder at the guard position."

"Not having him ... you have to make the adjustments," Martin said.

The Tigers did, although they did allow a 19-point lead to evaporate in the second half when Central Michigan pulled to within four before Missouri regained control for the final 12 minutes.

Missouri's only senior, Javon Pickett, scored 18 points, while Kobe Brown added 10 points and nine boards. Kobe's younger brother, Kaleb, was one of two Tigers who missed the opener because of illness but should be available against Kansas City.

Pickett's emergence proved comforting, displaying his growth in Martin's system and the leadership he must exert providing the Tigers a veteran presence.

"Javon's approach is the same," Martin said. "The only difference is that he's a senior now. He's not afraid to challenge guys."

Kansas City is engaged in the most difficult portion of its schedule, preparing for a third straight Power Five opponent after opening with road defeats against Minnesota and Iowa.

Josiah Allick leads the Kangaroos as a preseason all-league pick. That same poll slotted the Roos sixth in the Summit League after an 11-13 finish (7-7 in conference) last season.

Allick scored a game-high 21 points in the opener at Minnesota, when he played all 40 minutes. He managed just four points on 1-for-4 shooting in the 89-57 loss at Iowa on Friday. Anderson Kopp scored 11 points in that defeat as the Roos shot just 41.1 percent and committed 17 turnovers.

Billy Donlon, who previously coached at Wright State, is in his third season with Kansas City. The Roos won the last in-state matchup against Missouri, 69-61, in 2014.

--Field Level Media