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Appearances deceiving for Hogs, Tigers

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FAYETTEVILLE -- Some likely deemed the Missouri Tigers already done when freshman phenom Michael Porter, a projected one-and-done to the NBA player, required season-ending back surgery after just one game.

Meanwhile it was just last week that the Arkansas Razorbacks (11-5, 1-3) were ranked No. 22 in the country, were 11-2 overall and started 1-0 in the Southeastern Conference with an overtime win over previously ranked Tennessee (11-4, 2-2).

Well, not everything is as its seems.

As Missouri (12-4, 2-1) and Arkansas meet at Bud Walton Arena in this evening's 5 p.m. SEC game televised by ESPN2 (Resort Channel 29), it's the Tigers on the rise and the Razorbacks plummeting in free fall. First-year coach Cuonzo Martin's Tigers nearly defeated Florida (12-4, 4-0), the lone unbeaten in SEC play, before falling 77-75 in Columbia, Mo.. The Tigers also won 79-68 at South Carolina (10-6, 1-3) and defeated Georgia (11-4, 2-2), 68-56, last Wednesday night in Columbia.

Meanwhile, coach Mike Anderson's Razorbacks have lost three-straight SEC tilts -- 78-75 at Mississippi State (13-3, 1-2), trailed 47-30 at Auburn (15-1, 3-0) at the half before losing 88-77 and fell 75-54 in a shocker Wednesday to LSU (11-4, 2-1) at Bud Walton. The Razorbacks trailed LSU 41-21 at the half, hitting 6 of 33 overall and 1 of 11 from distance before shooting 54 percent in the second half to reach 19 of 57 attempts.

"We can make 19 field goals in 10 minutes," Anderson said post-game Wednesday of his team that 10 games this season has scored between 92 and 104 points. "But tonight, it didn't happen."

Despite the Michael Porter injury, good things have been happening for Mizzou,which only went 2-16 in the SEC under former coach Kim Anderson. The Tigers upset a 26-10 Arkansas team, 83-78, last year in Columbia after Arkansas trampled the Tigers, 92-73, in Fayetteville.

Both knowing Martin, former Mizzou coach Anderson said he's not surprised to see the Tigers rise. Martin formerly coached in the SEC at Tennessee before coaching the California and then heading east to Mizzou. Anderson knows how some teams step up to compensate for a fallen star.

"A lot of teams, that's when they play even better," Anderson said. "Because when you don't have someone, it gives other guys opportunities to showcase what they're doing. Cuonzo is doing an excellent job of really getting those guys to play at a high level, playing with great energy and, certainly, we have to come out with great energy."

Martin has blended old and new at Mizzou. Against Georgia, Martin started three newcomers -- 6-11 center Jontay Porter, the brother of Michael Porter, 6-10 freshman forward Jeremiah Timon and 6-3 graduate transfer from Canisius University guard Kassius Robertson -- along with returning lettermen Jordan Barnett, the 6-7 senior forward matching Robertson with a team-leading 15.4 scoring average, and 6-2 junior guard Jordan Geist.

Junior forward Kevin Puryear, often Mizzou's best player the previous two seasons, did not start against Georgia but was cited by Martin for his great defense against Georgia star forward Yante Martin while scoring seven of his nine points in succession on a key Missouri run. Mizzou veteran guards Terrence Phillips and Cullen Van Leer also play off the bench.

"Barnett is a guy that can really light it up," Anderson said. "They're playing with a lot of energy. They're playing defense, and they're shooting the basketball well."

The Razorbacks did none of the above against LSU and Anderson knows it.

"The LSU game I didn't think we showed up with the sense of urgency the we have to show up with," Anderson said. "But that game is over, and now we move on to the next game against a Missouri team that's playing awfully well."

Just as Arkansas did until the New Year hit -- after the Hogs beat Tennessee on Dec. 30.

"We've got to get back to playing like the way we played early in the year," Anderson said. "We had started trusting one another and the ball was moving and our defense went up another level. And our bench was really playing well."

Arkansas (11-5, 1-3)

Player Pts Rebs

F-Dustin Thomas 6-8 senior 4.5 4.2

F-Daniel Gafford 6-11 freshman 11.8 6.1

G-Anton Beard 6-0 senior 11.1 2.5

G-Daryl Macon 6-3 senior 16.3 2.6

G-Jaylen Barford 6-3 senior 18.8 4.2

Missouri (12-4, 2-1)

F-Jordan Barnett 6-7 senior 15.4 6.2

F-Jeremiah Tilmon 6-10 freshman 9.1 4.6

C-Jontay Porter 6-11 freshman 8.8 7.0

G-Jordan Geist 6-2 junior 7.3 3.8

G-Kassius Robertson 6-3 senior 15.4 1.9

Sports on 01/13/2018

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