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MIZ-ZOOM: Tennessee Hoops Edition

Cuonzo Martin, Dru Smith and Jeremiah Tilmon talk preparation for Missouri’s SEC opener against No. 7 Tennessee

NCAA Basketball: Bradley at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

COLUMBIA, Mo- On Tuesday, members of the University of Missouri’s mens Basketball team, including Head Coach, Cuonzo Martin addressed the press via zoom.

The Missouri Tigers will open their conference schedule tomorrow night against arguably their toughest opponent yet, the 7th ranked Tennessee Volunteers. Both teams are currently undefeated heading into this highly anticipated SEC matchup.

Point guard Dru Smith was first to take the podium this morning, but he, Jeremiah Tilmon, and Coach Martin all reiterated the same message: Tennessee is going to be difficult to stop in the paint and that they’re expecting a dog fight on defense. Smith said he admires how hard Tennessee plays on defense and that keeping them out of the post is crucial if Missouri wants to walk away with a victory. “You gotta be prepared every night,” Smith said. “If you come out unprepared you’re not gonna get the end result you want.” Jeremiah Tilmon piggybacked off of that saying, “They operate through the post, it’s our job to hold our ground and crash the glass.” The Volunteers have made a statement down low on defense this year and are currently averaging 5.0 blocks per game. For reference, the Tigers are only averaging 2.2.

Coach Martin, who once held the title as Head Coach for the Volunteers, said he believes this year’s Volunteers team has all the all the right parts. “They have good guard and interior play and when they guard you they try to be physical.” Though Martin will be coaching against his old team, he said that has no effect on him mentally. “It’s really just one day at a time,” Cuonzo said.

In a year that’s had no shortage of obstacles, this Missouri Tiger basketball team has had no special treatment. With the constant fear of the COVID looming over everyone’s head, Coach Martin made the decision to let his team go home for Christmas under the condition that his players all take safety protocols seriously. Dru Smith said that he and his teammates were told to wear masks at all times, even when around family. “I really appreciate what these guys are doing right now,” Martin explained. “These are not easy times for anyone in society. The guys don’t complain, they don’t make excuses. They appreciate what they have.” Missouri fans can breathe a sigh of relief as no one on the men’s basketball team seems to be sidelined due to COVID at the moment. Missouri football fans cannot say the same.

Lastly, coach Martin was asked about his thoughts being ranked nationally in the top 15. Martin said that rankings haven’t come up in the locker room once this year and that his team is focused on one game at a time. Coach said that he still has no problem with voters who don’t have Missouri in the top 25. “Unless it’s my wife or my mother or my daughter, it really doesn’t matter.”

We’ll see you tomorrow night.