Scouting Missouri

News, notes and quotes on tonight's ESPN Big Monday battle between KU and Border War rival Missouri at Allen Fieldhouse. Tipoff is 8:00 with Brent Musburger, Bob Knight, and Holly Rowe calling the action.

The Jayhawks (18-1, 4-0 Big 12), who should move up to No. 2 in the polls today, will be looking to extend their nation-leading homecourt winning streak to 54 games. KU won a Big Eight record 55 straight home games from 1984 to 1988 and a school record 62 consecutive home games from 1993 to 1998.

SCOUTING MISSOURI

Missouri (15-4, 3-1 Big 12) returns two starters off last year's 31-7 team. After losing three of four games against Richmond, Vanderbilt and Oral Roberts, MU enters the Phog winning 10 of its last 11 games with the lone loss a 66-61 setback at Oklahoma on Jan. 16. The Tigers are coming off a 70-53 victory over Nebraska at home on Saturday, where reserve sophomore guard Miguel Paul led MU with a career-high 15 points, extending Mizzou's homecourt winning streak to 31 games.

"I thought we took a big step in terms of getting better," Missouri head coach Mike Anderson said. "We had some guys that came off the bench and gave us some great, great minutes. A guy like Miguel Paul—you can see he's getting there, and to see him step up in a game of this magnitude was good to see. To me, it wasn't as much about his offense as his defense and energy."

MU is averaging 81.6 points per game and allowing just 63.1. The Tigers are shooting 45.6 percent from the field, 38.2 percent from three-point range, and 72.7 at the free-throw line. They're holding foes to only 39 percent from the field and 29 percent from beyond the arc, while just edging opponents on the boards, 37.3 to 37.2 per game.

Mizzou's pressure defense forces 20.9 turnovers per game, while leading the Big 12 in steals (12.1 per game) and also topping the conference with a +7.3 turnover margin.

The Tigers have eight players averaging at least 19.2 minutes per game, and a ninth player (Paul) averaging 13.6 mpg. Senior guard Zaire Taylor and senior forward Keith Ramsey lead Mizzou in minutes played at just 25.8 per game.

Overall, sophomore guard Kim English paces the attack with 14.8 points per game. He's also second on the team with 40 treys and 32 steals. Sophomore guard Marcus Denmon is second in scoring at 11.2 points per game, while making a team-high 43 three-pointers. He's followed in scoring by sophomore forward Laurence Bowers (10.9 ppg, team-high 5.9 rpg and 32 blocks), senior guard J.T. Tiller (8.6 ppg, No. 2 with 47 assists), freshman guard Michael Dixon (8.4 ppg), Taylor (8.1 ppg, team-high 55 assists and 36 steals), junior forward Justin Stafford (7.8 ppg), Ramsey (5.7 ppg, No. 2 with 33 steals) and Paul (4.3 ppg).

The Tigers are excited about their battle in Lawrence. Anderson has great respect for Kansas.

"It's Kansas—they're a very, very good basketball team, one of the top five in the country," Anderson said. "If you talk about keying in on one guy, then another guy will step up for them. A lot of things go through Sherron [Collins], and we all know that, but you've still got other guys capable of throwing up some big numbers. They're more experienced, and they're playing better this year.

"They have a great atmosphere there, and I think when you're a basketball player you look forward to playing in great venues. That's a great venue. To me, we're going to see if we can go there and get better. We know it's going to be a big challenge, but I think that's why you play the game."

Tiller said MU has to play its typical frenetic, pressing style to beat Kansas.

"If we go to Lawrence and play their game we don't have a chance," Tiller said. "But that's with any team in the Big 12, we have to go in and play our game, and impose our will to have the best chance at winning."

MORRIS ROLLIN'

KU sophomore forward Marcus Morris is on a roll in Big 12 play. He's leading the team in conference action with 19.3 points per game, while also averaging 7.5 rebounds a contest. Morris has made 30-of-45 field goals in Big 12 play (four games) for 66.7 percent, and also connected on 15-of-19 free throws for 78.9 percent.

He had 16 points and seven rebounds (six offensive boards) in KU's 84-61 victory over Iowa State on Saturday at Hilton Coliseum.

WITHEY SHINES

Seven-foot redshirt freshman center Jeff Withey was also a bright spot in KU's victory over Iowa State. He posted career highs with eight points (4-6 FG) and five rebounds in 12 minutes while helping limit ISU star Craig Brackins to just 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting.

"We had a new guy jump on the scene that I would have never had given a chance if we hadn't had foul problems,"  KU coach Bill Self said. "I thought Jeff was great, gave us some good minutes. That will give me some confidence and our team some confidence in going to him more often.

"I thought he did a good job on Craig. I thought his length bothered him a little bit. He moved his feet pretty well, he went after the ball. I was real pleased with him."

SERIES HISTORY

Kansas leads the all-time series with MU, 167-94, including an 86-33 record in games played in Lawrence and 39-14 mark in Allen Fieldhouse. KU has won the last 10 meetings in Allen Fieldhouse dating back to 2000. Overall, the Jayhawks have won six of the last seven meetings and 10 of the last 13.

The teams first met on March 11, 1907 in Lawrence, with MU winning, 34-31.

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