Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA — Kim Anderson and Bruce Pearl are each in their first year as head coach at their respective Southeastern Conference schools, Anderson at Missouri and Pearl at Auburn. In past lives, they both made their debuts as head coaches in Divison II.
“If you do your research,” Anderson said after Missouri’s Thursday defeat of LSU, “you’ll find something else out.”
Presumably, Anderson was hinting at the fact both coaches won national championships in their time in D-II, Pearl at Southern Indiana in 1995 and Anderson at Central Missouri in 2014.
The two will face one another for the first time today in Auburn (6 p.m., SECN).
The Missouri Tigers hope confidence from an SEC season-opening win against the LSU Tigers carries over to tonight’s game against the Auburn Tigers, who lost their conference opener to the Vanderbilt Tig — er, Commodores.
Missouri, which lost more than half its non-conference games for the first time since 1978, pulled somewhat of an upset against LSU, which received votes in the most recent AP and coaches’ polls. Missouri made 46.9 percent of its shots in the second half and held LSU to 0-of-8 shooting in overtime to hold on for Anderson’s first SEC win.
The team’s leading scorer, Johnathan Williams III, is on a run of eight straight games of at least 15 points and eight rebounds, and he put up 21 and 10 against LSU. More than half of Missouri’s minutes came from freshmen Thursday, though freshman Montaque Gill-Caesar, the team’s second leading scorer, missed the game with back spasms. Anderson said he is doubtful for tonight’s game.
“It’s day to day, but I don’t get the feeling it’s going to be (today),” Anderson said of Gill-Caesar’s return.
Fellow freshman Namon Wright continued his success from behind the arc against LSU, sinking three 3-pointers in the first half. He now has 17 treys to 12 two-pointers on the season.
Auburn (8-6, 0-1 SEC), meanwhile, is led in scoring by senior guard K.T. Harrell with 17.2 points per game. Antoine Mason (15.5) and Cinmeon Bowers (13.2) are also averaging double figures. Bowers is totaling a double-double with 11.1 rebounds per game.
Like Missouri’s season-opening hiccup against Missouri-Kansas City, Auburn has an unsightly loss on its resume after a 58-54 Dec. 5 defeat by Coastal Carolina.
Auburn fell 64-52 to Vanderbilt on Tuesday.
“They are a good team, and (Pearl)’s done a great job of putting these guys together,” Anderson said. “They’re going to be physical. They’re going to be strong. They’re going to play hard, probabably press a little bit, so we’ve got to get ready. We’ve got to get ready to play them.”