Missouri must move forward without prize recruit Michael Porter Jr. as it begins play in the Advocare Invitational on Thursday against Long Beach State in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The team announced Tuesday that the 6-10 Porter, who was expected to be one of the best freshmen in the country but played just two minutes before going down in the season opener, will miss three to four months after back surgery.
“Our focus has been on Michael’s well-being, just like every other player in our locker room,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said in a statement. “We will continue to work every day to build Mizzou Basketball into a program to be proud of. We’re preparing now for a trip that is a tremendous opportunity. I’m excited to get after it in Orlando.” The Tigers still have plenty of talent that has helped them win three of four games to start the season, but they struggled to put away Division II Emporia State 67-62 on Monday. Junior forward Kevin Puryear (13.3) and senior guard Kassius Robertson (13.0) are the only players scoring in double figures for Missouri, which must be alert against Long Beach State. The 49ers, who started with two wins before dropping decisions against Oregon State and West Virginia, have also been missing one of their top players in junior forward Temidayo Yussuf (knee).
TV: 11:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2
ABOUT MISSOURI (3-1): Puryear is averaging 6.3 boards and has connected on 18-of-29 shots from the field while Porter’s brother, Jontay, leads the team in rebounding (7.0) and adds 8.3 points per contest. Robertson is also contributing 2.8 assists and senior forward Jordan Barnett, along with 6-10 freshman Jeremiah Tilmon, chip in with nine points per game apiece. The Tigers will need more from junior guard Terrence Phillips, who is averaging 5.0 points after recording 10.4 per game last season - including 21 in Lake Buena Vista against Xavier in the Tire Pros Invitational.
ABOUT LONG BEACH STATE (2-2): Yussuf, who averaged 9.4 points and was named All-Big West second team last season, is questionable after missing each of the first four contests. Junior guard Bryan Alberts, a transfer from Gonzaga, has topped his career high in scoring the last three games and averages 16.5 points while draining 16-of-35 from 3-point range in the early going. Senior forward Gabe Levin joined Yussuf on the preseason All-Big West team and is averaging 14.5 points and 9.5 rebounds after notching a double-double in the 91-62 loss to West Virginia (23, 11).
1. Missouri sophomore F Reed Nikko has stepped up the last three games, averaging eight points and seven boards in 15 minutes.
2. Long Beach State F Barry Ogalue is averaging 13.5 points, but was held to two last time out against West Virginia.
3. Missouri has won both previous meetings, including a 69-59 triumph in 2014.
PREDICTION: Long Beach State 71, Missouri 70