Auburn-Missouri Preview


An inability to win on the road might end Missouri's lengthy stay in the Top 25, but it still has another chance to convince voters it deserves to stay.

The 17th-ranked Tigers will try to do that by remaining undefeated at home Saturday in Earnest Ross' first matchup with his former Auburn team.

Missouri dropped to 0-4 on the road Wednesday with a 73-70 loss to LSU, which was in last place in the SEC at the time. A 7-for-26 shooting performance in the first half (26.9 percent) didn't help but Missouri (15-5, 4-3) managed to cut a 16-point deficit to two with 1:06 remaining before falling short.

Phil Pressey had 25 points - one shy of matching his career high - but missed a tying 3-point attempt in the final seconds and finished 1 of 9 from beyond the arc.

That was among the reasons why coach Frank Haith had some pointed comments for his team after the game.

"It is all about trust. We take quick shots instead of executing offensively. We don't need guys trying to do more than just run the offense," Haith said. "That is all I want from them. Run the offense."

Jabari Brown had 19 points, increasing his team-best average in conference play to 17.6, while leading scorer Laurence Bowers (16.3 ppg) had 10 after a five-game absence due to a knee injury.

"It's frustrating," Brown said. "I don't make any excuses. I don't feel like there should be any excuses. We just didn't execute the way we needed to. We made some mistakes at the end that cost us the game.

"We just have to put this one behind us and keep moving. We can't focus on these losses too long. We have another game to play."

In that next game, Missouri will try to improve to 13-0 on its own floor. It routed Vanderbilt 81-59 in its most recent game there last Saturday.

Missouri will try for another blowout while maintaining its spot in the rankings. It's been in the Top 25 since debuting at No. 25 in the 2011-12 preseason poll. Missouri was ranked No. 2 on Jan. 23, 2012, and reached as high as No. 7 this season on Dec. 24.

The next team to visit Mizzou Arena has lost a season-high five in a row and three straight on the road. Auburn (8-12, 2-5) matched its season low for points and had its worst shooting performance (28.3 percent) in a 57-49 loss at Georgia on Wednesday.

The team's only two players averaging in double figures, Frankie Sullivan (16.8 ppg) and Chris Denson (11.9), were among three who scored 10 or more points against the Bulldogs. Allen Payne was the other with 13 points.

All three players were teammates of Ross in 2010-11, when he was Auburn's leading scorer (13.1 ppg) and rebounder (6.6 per game). He hasn't matched his numbers from that season so far, averaging 10.1 points and 5.5 rebounds.

Along with a potentially motivated Ross, Missouri is hoping guard Keion Bell will return from an ailing shoulder. The team has had only two games with a full complement of players.

Alex Oriakhi, who spent his first three seasons at Connecticut, is four points shy of reaching 1,000 in his career. He scored one point Wednesday when foul trouble limited him to 16 minutes.

This is the first meeting between Missouri and Auburn, and the only one this season.