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Notebook: Jeremiah Tilmon might be available for game at Arkansas

The Tigers are seeking their first SEC road win and have not won in Fayetteville since 2014. They will get their annual chance Saturday against a fading Razorbacks squad

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Illinois Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Cuonzo Martin was the bearer of some good news for Missouri fans on the injury front Friday afternoon.

He indicated that Jeremiah Tilmon may be available for the Tigers on Saturday as they face a desperate Arkansas team in Fayetteville.

His return would mean a lot for Missouri, especially facing an Arkansas squad that may have Isaiah Joe back for the first time since January due to knee surgery. Joe is questionable to play Saturday, but has been practicing in limited capacity with the Razorbacks this week.

The Tigers have been without Tilmon for almost the entirety of conference play. The junior center played eight minutes against Kentucky on January 4th, and then 11 minutes against Texas A&M on February 4th.

Missouri has been able to survive somewhat thanks to the job Reed Nikko has done in Tilmon’s absence, not to mention the improved play of the team’s guards. That being said, having Tilmon back as another offensive threat and rim-protector would certainly be a bonus, especially playing in Bud Walton Arena.

Martin also said that junior Mark Smith will be out for Saturday. Smith has been dealing with a lower back injury and has not played since January 28th against Georgia.

Dealing with foul fests

Officiating has been a point of contention for Missouri fans this season, no more apparent than it was during the Auburn and Ole Miss games. Both games saw whistles aplenty, and both games tallied a grand total of 127 free throws. Not ideal, and certainly not easy on the eyes.

That being said, Cuonzo Martin said he is not upset with the officiating. The number of whistles, he explained, is determined by the level of aggression the team is playing with in a game. “When it’s lopsided, that means we weren’t aggressive,” Martin said. “I’m well aware of this. I’ve never put it on officials because if you’re not aggressive, you’re not getting calls. As of late, we’re downhill so we’ll force the refs, if they call 100 fouls, then it will be 50-50 and we’ll put pressure on. I don’t think they’ve done a poor job officiating the game.”

Martin went on to say that during the team’s first eight games of conference play, the aggression was lacking compared to what it is now. Missouri is playing with more energy across the board, and is getting to the rim more.

Martin’s comments might not satisfy those who want to rip their hair out after hearing whistle after whistle during Missouri’s games. However, the coach has never been one to rant and rave at the referees, and is adamant that all of his focus is on his team on the court.

Road Woes

The Kim Anderson Era skews this statistic, so prepare yourself. In the past six seasons, Missouri is 5-46 in SEC road games. Yeah, ouch.

The Tigers are 0-6 on the road this season, and will be searching for away conference win number one at Bud Walton Arena of all places, a venue where Missouri has won just one time since joining the conference, all the way back in 2014.

“I think they look forward to it, I really do,” Martin said. “Just the mental focus that it takes to win road games, and when you’re in a different venue, you should want whatever comes with that.”

Missouri’s last road performance, however, should give reason for some confidence that a win is possible in Fayetteville. The Tigers gave LSU all it could handle at the Maravich Assembly Center before eventually falling, 82-78.

Bud Walton Arena will surely be packed Saturday afternoon, and there may even be a bit of a desperate touch to the energy in the building as Razorback fans try to help their team break a five game losing streak.

“We just don’t pay attention to the crowd,” Xavier Pinson said. “They’re not the ones on the court. We’ve just got to stay locked in, stay focused and stay aggressive.”