Pons will likely open the game matched against Mizzou’s Kobe Brown, but he can handle smaller guards on the wing or take shifts inside against Jeremiah Tilmon or Mitchell Smith. His versatility will be critical.
Mizzou is undefeated despite mostly dismal 3-point shooting. Last season the Tigers shot 29.7 percent, the worst in team history. This year: 28.4 percent. Four players in Martin’s rotation are shooting worse from 3 through the first six games: Xavier Pinson, Kobe Brown, Javon Pickett and Mitchell Smith. Mark Smith is shooting better but has gone 1 of 7 the last two games. Dru Smith’s percentage is up slightly.
Martin isn’t concerned.
“Truthfully I hadn’t lost any sleep over the 3-point (shooting),” he said. “I really haven’t because when I’ve got look at those percentages, I think sometimes (the shots) are too quick and I think sometimes we’re settling. But I’m not worried at all. Not at all. And I’m not saying it just for sound bytes, but not a concern at all because I’m hopeful that teams will continue to leave us open.”
Here’s the bad news: Tennessee has held its last five opponents to less than 29 percent from behind the arc.
Dru Smith is considered a lethal defender because he gets so many steals, but those grabby hands are getting him in trouble. He leads the team with 21 fouls. He’s reached four fouls in four of MU’s six games. The Tigers need him on the floor, not the bench, especially in this matchup against Tennessee’s fleet of bigger, talented guards.