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Cuonzo Martin clarifies Michael Porter Jr.’s status as Mizzou prepares for LSU

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Porter Jr. had a doctor’s visit yesterday, but it wasn’t the one people expected. Regardless, Missouri will aim to keep its winning streak going against LSU on Saturday.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday, Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin confirmed that Tigers freshman Michael Porter Jr. had a medical checkup for his back injury in an interview with St. Louis radio station KFNS 590 AM. It evidently wasn’t the kind of appointment Missouri fans were expecting.

“No,” said Martin on if there was anything new on Porter Jr.’s status. “It’s next Thursday. Now there are appointments that are here in town, but there’s one that’s next Thursday, the one that you guys are probably talking about.”

Porter Jr. will meet with his doctor in Dallas on Feb. 22, so the Mizzou coaches and staff won’t have word on his availability for practices or games for the next week. By default, the heralded forward will miss at least the next two games.

Missouri (18-8, 8-5 SEC) will take a five-game winning streak to Baton Rouge for a 1 p.m. Saturday contest against LSU (14-11, 5-8).

The opposing Tigers are led by freshman guard Tremont Waters, who is averaging over 14 points and nearly six assists per game.

“(He’s) similar to (Chris) Chiozza,” Martin said after Missouri’s win over Texas A&M on Tuesday. “Great talent. Quick with the ball, can pass it, can score it, does a lot of things. Really changed the complexion of their team this year.”

Outside of Waters, the versatility of LSU’s big men also impressed Martin. “Probably the one team I think that we’ll face this year where their bigs are just as good as shooters as (their) guards.”

Duop Reath and Aaron Epps are two 6’10 or taller forwards who shoot 46 percent and 36 percent from three-point range, respectively. “The way we have to defend them won’t be easy,” Martin said. “They’ll stretch us out.”

First-year LSU coach Will Wade is coming off of leading VCU to two consecutive NCAA Tournament berths. Wade had formerly been an assistant coach under Shaka Smart and helped implement the press-happy “Havoc” defense.

“They might do it against us,” said Martin with a laugh after commenting that Wade doesn’t use it as often. Don’t be surprised if LSU looks to prey on Missouri’s tendency to crumble under intense ball pressure.

Barring a major collapse, Missouri has placed itself in excellent position to make the NCAA Tournament with its recent winning streak.

In ESPN’s latest Bracketology, the Tigers are a projected 7-seed in the Midwest Region.

“I don’t need to,” said Kassius Robertson when asked if he’s talked with his teammates about what making the tournament would mean. “I’m sure a dream of mine is a dream of theirs too. Not many of them have been to the tournament, either.”

Jordan Geist is one of those players, and he was obviously on the Missouri team that won just eight games under Kim Anderson last season. “I feel like we’d get punched and we might have fallen down and just given up,” said Geist as he reflected on last year. “But now this year we’re getting back up and punching back.”

After losing three straight games, the Tigers now hold the longest winning streak in the SEC and are currently in a three-way tie for third place in the conference.

For Martin, Robertson and Geist, the common denominator in recent success was been simple: confidence. “If somebody could come up with a formula of what creates confidence (that) you can buy and now you have confidence, it’s unbelievable.”

“That’s everything, that’s from ages five to 90. You’ve got a level of confidence, you can do anything. I think our guys understand that. I always tell them, ‘Don’t ever let anybody take your confidence, that’s including me as a coach.’ I think that’s the most important thing. If they can maintain that, the sky’s the limit.”