COLUMBIA — Until Missouri wins a road game in conference play, and puts together at least two victories in a row, consistency will be the buzzword for head coach Cuonzo Martin.
The Tigers (11-12, 3-7 Southeastern Conference) face No. 25 LSU (17-6, 8-2 SEC) at 8 p.m. today in Baton Rouge, La., on SEC Network.
"I think it's simply doing it," Martin said Tuesday, and referenced the growth of Reed Nikko and Mitchell Smith from role players to starters playing big minutes. "So the next step is being able to do in a road environment against good teams be consistent with it, and now you're going toe-to-toe with the other guy.
"I think when you look at West Virginia, you look at A&M or you look at the Mississippi State We went up against other fours and fives, and we hadn't won those battles, and I think that's what — even South Carolina, that's where the separation was, so we have to be able to hold our own in that area, and I think everything else will fall in place."
Martin reiterated the injury report from before Saturday's game — Jeremiah Tilmon (left foot stress fracture) will not play and is back to week-to-week after playing 12 minutes a week ago against Texas A&M, and Mark Smith (lower back) will be a game-time decision and play if Martin sees Smith as 100 percent ready mentally and physically.
"You want to win, you need him out there on the floor, but his health and his longevity is most important," Martin said of Smith.
LSU presents another interesting matchup for the Tigers in the fact, like Arkansas, it only one player on the court for major minutes is taller than 6-foot-6, in freshman forward/center Trendon Watford. Missouri outrebounded the Razorbacks 52-35 in an overtime win Saturday. LSU was outrebounded 46-36 in an overtime loss at Auburn earlier in the day.
On offense, all five starters shoot at least 49.7 percent on 2-point shots, highlighted by sophomore forward Darius Days, who makes 74 percent of his 2s. Three other players — Watford, senior point guard Skylar Mays and sophomore forward Emmitt Williams — have each attempted more than 100 free throws this year, and the team shoots 77 percent from the line.
Mays (15.9 points per game) Williams (14 ppg.), Watford (13.9 ppg.), Javonte Smart (12.3 ppg.) and Days (11.7 ppg.) all average double-digit scoring for a team that scores 80.7 points per game.
"They're a talented team, and you have to make them play on both sides of the ball," Martin said. "You have to make them defend, because as talented as they are, they're still only playing maybe seven guys, max. They have their core five they're playing unless a guy's in foul trouble, so we have to try to get them to get to their bench, get guys in foul trouble, and you make them go to their plan B and C."
The Tigers succeeded in a similar game plan against the Razorbacks, as four Arkansas players fouled out of Saturday's game, one in regulation. That game had nearly 60 personal fouls whistled, and the teams shot a combined 83 free throws. Xavier Pinson, who made some clutch plays near the end of regulation and overtime, shot just 1-of-7 on 2-point shots but was 12-of-13 at the line and Missouri finished the game 34-of-44.
LSU had two injuries to major bench players in James Bishop and Charles Manning Jr. Four of the five starters are each averaging at least 28 minutes per game, with Mays and Smart each playing nearly 34 minutes on average. Marlon Taylor and Aundre Hyatt are the only players off the bench playing double-digit minutes.