In a season that will largely be remembered for disappointment and unrealized potential, Mizzou basketball notched its biggest win of the season on Saturday, topping #11 Auburn 85-73.
In front of a season-high crowd of over 12,000 guards Dru Smith and Xavier Pinson put on a show, combining for 56 points in the upset victory. The win was Missouri’s second consecutive at home and followed a near-upset over LSU in Baton Rouge. It’s clear that polarizing third-year coach Cuonzo Martin has his team dialed in and believing that they are better than their 12-13 record.
“You have two guards out there that can make a shot but also can get downhill, make plays, and scouting report, how Auburn defends, those opportunities are there,” Martin said of Mizzou’s guard play.
The importance of a strong finish
The upset moved Missouri (now 4-8 in league play) into a three-way tie for sixth place in the SEC and the Tigers have opportunities to continue moving up the ladder with winnable games down the stretch. For Martin, it is all important that the team finish strong as fans have started slowly trickling back to Mizzou Arena after a porous 1-5 start to the conference slate.
The fact that Martin has his team playing competent basketball with two of his biggest contributors (Jeremiah Tilmon and Mark Smith) shelved with injury is a strong indicator that his young team has bought in and could take some real momentum into next season.
While a strong finish would take some of the sting away from Mizzou fans’ displeasure with another subpar season, Martin will have to continue to win over the fanbase with performances similar to Saturday.
Missouri (12-13) hosts Ole Miss (13-12) on Tuesday night at 7:30 PM.