COLUMBIA — Cuonzo Martin is preparing for a schedule he had no hand in setting up, but he likes the early tests set up by his predecessor.
Missouri (1-0) plays at Iowa State (1-0) at 6 p.m. today in Ames, Iowa. The game will be streamed on cyclones.tv. by Iowa State and is also available on Mediacom’s local MC22 channel, which broadcasts across the states of Missouri and Iowa. The Tigers have won 10 straight against the Cyclones dating back to March 2008.
“Without a doubt. I mean next year we go to Temple, we go to Xavier,” Martin said. “Of course I look forward to it. I think it’s great for our guys. What’s the point in coming to this level, being at a university of this magnitude, if you don’t challenge yourself? I think you owe it to yourself and you owe it to your fans to be able to play that level of competition on the road.”
The Cyclones don’t look too different from last year’s team, which saw four contributors graduate or transfer out.
But junior forward Solomon Young, who scored six points in 33 minutes during last season’s game at Mizzou Arena, will miss the first month of the season after undergoing groin surgery in October because of an injury in practice.
Iowa State coach Steve Prohm also suspended 6-foot-9 sophomore forward Cameron Lard and 6-7 redshirt junior forward Zoran Talley Jr. for seven games each but did not give an explanation as to why after Iowa State’s 79-53 win Tuesday against Alabama State, according to the Des Moines Register.
Lard started in 16 games for the Cyclones in 2017-18 but did not see action against the Tigers, and Talley scored 11 points in 22 minutes in last season’s meeting. Lard averaged 12.6 points per game, third on the team, and 8.1 rebounds per game to lead Iowa State last season, Young averaged 7.2 points and six rebounds and Talley averaged 7.5 points, four rebounds and 1.7 assists.
The Cyclones return Lindell Wigginton and Nick Weiler-Babb, who combined for 24 of the team’s 59 points in last season’s game, but the challenge for Iowa State will be guarding the paint, especially against Jeremiah Tilmon, Kevin Puryear, Reed Nikko and Mitchell Smith.
The 6-9 junior forward Michael Jacobson and 6-10 freshman George Conditt are the Cyclones’ only players taller than 6-6, which gives the Tigers a distinct advantage in the post, especially if Tilmon can keep out of foul trouble like he did in the season opener against Central Arkansas.
“He needs (paint touches) just because of who he is and his presence as a basketball player,” Martin said of Tilmon. “I didn’t feel any less a year ago, just, again, his growth in demanding and positioning, and whenever he was on the floor without foul trouble, you saw his effect on the game.”
Martin said the goal for Tilmon this year is to get him to a certain number of minutes per night and threw out 25 minutes as a hypothetical. When Tilmon was struggling with foul trouble his freshman year, he would only get 10-15 minutes on the court before fouling out, and benching him for extended periods removed him from the flow of the game and affected his scoring output.
Tilmon showed promise Tuesday night, playing 18 minutes in the first half without a foul before picking up four in eight second-half minutes.
Nikko was excellent off the bench in limited action while Puryear and Smith struggled to get going offensively. Puryear was Missouri’s leading scorer in this game a year ago with 17, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him establish an offensive rhythm.
On the perimeter, things should be a little more balanced offensively. Because of depth and offensive style, Iowa State plays 4-out, 1-in. The Cyclones started Wigginton, Weiler-Babb, Marial Shayok and Talen Horton-Tucker around Jacobson against Alabama State. The Tigers started Tilmon, Puryear, Mark Smith, Jordan Geist and Javon Pickett against Central Arkansas, a lineup that at least height-wise fits well with Iowa State’s starters. Those 10 players will likely be on the court for the opening tip tonight.