Missouri can go a long way toward recovering from the loss of their prize recruit to injury by taking home a tournament title when they face 20th-ranked West Virginia on Sunday in the championship game of the AdvoCare Invitational in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Tigers will likely be without highly-touted freshman Michael Porter Jr. for the season due to a back injury, but have looked like a dangerous team without him this week.
After routing Long Beach State in the tournament opener, Missouri rallied from eight points down in the final 12 minutes to knock off previously-unbeaten St. John’s 90-82 in the semifinals on Friday. “I thought that was a very resilient win,” Tigers junior forward Kevin Puryear told the Columbia Daily Tribune. “. … We made huge plays down the stretch. … We know what we are capable of. The job is not finished. We still have one more game to play.” West Virginia will be the stiffest challenge of the season for Missouri after the Mountaineers forced 27 turnovers in an 83-45 rout of previously-undefeated Central Florida in the other semifinal for their fifth straight win. “We played with a lot of energy,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins told reporters. “We’re pretty good when we play with energy and we’re bad when we don’t play with energy.”
TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2
ABOUT MISSOURI (5-1): Without Porter, the Tigers should be a balanced team and that is how it is playing out with four players averaging between 13.7 and 10.2 to lead the way. “I wouldn’t say there is really a go-to guy at this point,” Puryear told reporters. “We could have a (different) leading scorer, any game honestly. To have that versatility and skill level scoring the ball, that’s huge for us.” Senior guard Kassius Robertson (13.7 points per game) has scored 30 in the tournament and Jontay Porter (10.7), Michael’s 6-11 brother, has contributed 31.
ABOUT WEST VIRGINIA (5-1): Senior guard Jevon Carter tops the team in scoring (16.3), assists (5.8) and steals (nation-best 4.5), and has been a major factor in the tournament with 36 points. Sophomore guard James Bolden led the way with 17 points against UCF and averages 12.7, including 17-of-38 from 3-point range, while senior guard Daxter Miles Jr. (14.2) nearly matched his average with 14 in the win. Sophomore Sagaba Konate is averaging 12 points and a team-high 7.4 caroms for the Mountaineers, who boast plus-12 turnover and plus-8.2 rebound margins.
1. West Virginia goes after its third in-season tournament title in four years after winning the Las Vegas Invitational (2015) and the Puerto Rico Tip-Off (2014).
2. Missouri junior G Jordan Geist is averaging 13.5 points in the tournament after managing to score 12 combined in the first four games.
3. The Tigers lead the all-time series 2-1, including an 80-71 victory in the last meeting Dec. 5, 2013 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
PREDICTION: Missouri 76, West Virginia 74