Missouri fans still haven’t had a chance to really see star freshman Michael Porter Jr. in action, and that isn’t likely to change when the Tigers host NCAA Division II Emporia State on Monday. The freshman phenom is nursing a mysterious leg injury, and while the Tigers haven’t given a timeline for his return, they aren’t expected to rush him back to face the Hornets.
Porter played only two minutes in Missouri’s season-opening 74-59 win over Iowa State, then stayed in the locker room for a 99-55 rout of Wagner and didn’t make the trip for Thursday’s game at Utah. The Tigers didn’t miss him much in their first two contests, but his absence was apparent with the rest of the team struggling to score in a 77-59 defeat against the Utes. Even without Porter, Missouri should have plenty of firepower to swat away the Hornets, who don’t have any players over 6-foot-8 and will have a difficult time matching up against the towering Tigers, who have five players 6-10 or taller. Emporia State has won two straight following an 0-2 start.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, SEC Network Plus
ABOUT EMPORIA STATE (2-2): The Hornets have the ability to play with Power Five teams, as they proved with a single-digit loss to Iowa State in an exhibition, though the Cyclones were short-handed. Point guard Brandon Hall (20 points, 5.3 assists) is a big-time scorer who relies on getting to the foul line nearly 10 times per game. Hassan Thomas (10 points, 7.0 rebounds) is a nice post player at the Division II level and can step out and shoot the 3-pointer, but he will have a tough matchup against Missouri’s talented big men.
ABOUT MISSOURI (2-1): The Tigers’ youth showed at Utah, as things fell apart early on the road and Missouri never recovered. In their two home games, though, they’ve been excellent on defense and crisp on offense, getting veteran big men Kevin Puryear (13.3 points, 5.7 rebounds) and Jordan Barnett (10.7 points, 4.3 rebounds) involved while graduate transfer Kassius Robertson (15.3 points) has carried the ball-handling load with Porter out. Even with all their size inside, the Tigers have launched at least 22 3-point attempts in each of their three games, and they were 5-for-27 from long range against Utah.
1. Puryear has scored in double figures in six straight games dating to last season and is averaging 17.3 points and 5.8 rebounds over that stretch.
2. Robertson has played at least 20 minutes in 79 consecutive games dating to his freshman season at Canisius and has made at least one 3-pointer in 68 of his last 70 games.
3. Hall has scored in double figures in eight straight games dating to last season.
PREDICTION: Missouri 87, Emporia State 56