After weeks of frustration and anticipation, comments by ESPN’s Dick Vitale and Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin once again churned up the Michael Porter Jr. hype train. The Tigers won their third straight game on Tuesday, but all the attention seemed to drift toward the highly-anticipated freshman.
On Friday, Porter, sporting a white Nike shirt with the words “Bring Your Game” on the front, addressed the media himself.
“To me, and how I feel right now, there is a good chance” said Porter Jr., who added that he hopes to be fully cleared by his doctor next week. “That’s what I would love to hear, but it’s not up to me. It’s up to me to work hard, but it’s up to the doctor to tell me I’m ready to go.”
Porter, of course, has been out since the season-opener against Iowa State but expressed no concern about chemistry with his teammates, saying that he’d fit right in. When it comes to re-aggravating his injury, he held the same sentiment.
“I have zero concerns about that,” he said. “I feel better right now than I’ve ever felt. If and when I am cleared to go, I can just hop right back in. It wouldn’t take me very many practices to be ready to go.”
With only seven games remaining in the regular season, some have questioned whether it’s worth it for Porter to come back. He disagrees. “I’m just a kid who loves to play basketball,” he said. “I’m not thinking about the risk. If I could play today, I would play today.”
MPJ on potential return: “To me, and how I feel right now, I’d say there’s a good chance.”Posted by Rock M Nation on Friday, February 9, 2018
“I don’t really like the speculation, to be honest,” he added. “All I want to hear about is Mizzou basketball and how good we’re doing. We’re on a three-game win streak right now, we got a big one coming tomorrow. That’s the stuff I like to read about. Jontay, my little brother, doing his thing, having a big few games. That’s what I like to hear about.”
Oh yeah, there’s a game tomorrow. Let’s get into that.
The last time Missouri and Mississippi State met, the Tigers dropped their third straight and found themselves quickly falling out of the NCAA Tournament picture.
Since then, Mizzou has won three straight, including marquee wins over Alabama on the road and Kentucky at home.
In the latest ESPN Bracketology, Missouri is a projected 8-seed in the South. All of that can quickly change, though, depending on how this two-game, revenge-themed home stand against MSU and Texas A&M turns out.
The Tigers and Bulldogs were tied at halftime in their previous matchup in Starkville, but the Bulldogs won the second half, 43-31. Missouri turned the ball over 19 times and shot just 27 percent from deep.
“I think we didn’t play well as a team at Mississippi State,” Martin said. “Especially the last three minutes going into the half and into the second half, just very inconsistent.”
Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin talks Mississippi State, MPJ, and more.
Martin gave his insight on the MPJ situation, the strength of the SEC, and tomorrow's game against the Bulldogs.Posted by Rock M Nation on Friday, February 9, 2018
Outside of Kassius Robertson, who scored 20, the rest of Mizzou’s team just couldn’t get it going. The other four starters combined for only 22 points on an abysmal 10-for-31 shooting from the field.
Robertson has emerged as the closer for the Tigers, dropping 65 points in the last three games on 53 percent shooting from the field and 47 percent shooting from 3-point range.
“He didn’t have to earn it from me, shoot the ball,” said Martin when asked if the graduate transfer had to earn his status. “He’s shot-ready. He feels like he can make those shots, and often times when he shoots the ball it gives us advantages in other areas.”
If Missouri wants to keep its winning streak going, the team’s shooting must improve.
Also, it’d probably be a good idea to stop the Weatherspoon brothers.
Quinndary and Nick outscored four of the Tiger starters on their own, with 32 points combined on nine fewer shots.
For Martin, though, it isn’t just about stopping them from scoring. “I don’t know if necessarily it’s slowing them down,” he said. “I think they both impact the game in so many ways. Not just how many shots go in the basket, but slashing, getting steals, getting out in passing lanes.”
“Nick is a really good defender, not that Q isn’t, but Nick, even on a high school level, really took pride in defending and playing hard,” Martin added. “Q scores the ball, so if he doesn’t have a good scoring night you can say well he didn’t play well. Nick’s 6-foot-1, but he can play the 1, 2, or the 3 for you. He can accept the challenge of guarding the other team’s best perimeter guy.”
Despite coming away with just one steal, Nick made life stressful for Mizzou’s ball-handlers with his relentless pressure last game. Meanwhile, Quinndary dropped 20 points and added three steals of his own
“It’s easy to say, ‘Limit their touches,’ well, both can bring the ball up the floor,” said Martin in conclusion. “They’ll get the ball in their hand, you just got to be sound with your defensive principles.”
Saturday’s contest also marks the third-annual Rally For Rhyan Game.
The event, named after Mizzou Athletics’ staff member Brad Loos’ seven-year-old daughter, began in support of Rhyan’s battle with pediatric cancer.
The game will be broadcast on ESPN, and Missouri will help raise funds for the #RallyForRhyan campaign to raise awareness about and fund pediatric cancer research. Over $100,000 was raised from the first two games.
Fans are encouraged to wear gold. #RallyForRhyan shirts can be purchased here.