On Thursday evening (7:00 P.M., MSN), the #13/#12 Missouri Tigers (8-1) will play host to the Golden Eagles of Oral Roberts University (4-5, 2-0) without starting guard Michael Dixon who is suspended indefinitely. Oral Roberts comes in off of a 60-73 loss at Oklahoma.
Oral Roberts is led in scoring by 6'6" junior F Dominique Morrison, a native of Kansas City, MO (Raytown), who is averaging 17.3 points/game. Morrison is one of four Golden Eagles who are scoring in double-digits. Morrison is also pulling down 5.3 rebounds/game, and is handing out 2.8 assists/game, while maintaining a 2.5 A/TO ratio. Morrison is a do-everything talent, who is coming off of a week in which he was named Summit League Player of the Week.
ORU's other leading scorers are 6'4" sophomore G Warren Niles (14.9 points/game), 6'8" freshman F Steven Roundtree (12 points/game, 7 rebounds/game), and 6'9" sophomore F/C Damen Bell-Holter (10.4 points/game, 6.1 rebounds/game). Roundtree and Bell-Holter do most of their damage inside, although Bell-Holter can step out beyond the arc.
Niles has been playing heavy minutes off of the Golden Eagles' bench, while 6'2" senior G Roderick Pearson (2.9 points/game, 2.4 assists/game, 1.7 A/T ratio), also from Kansas City, MO (Raytown South), and 6'2" RSF G Hunter McClintock (6.8 points/game) complete the starting line-up.
The trio of Morrison, Niles, and McClintock have taken more than three-fourths of the Golden Eagles' 3-PT attempts, and are hitting on a collective 39% from beyond the arc.
6'5" senior F Michael Craion, Kansas City, MO (Ruskin), last season's Summit League Newcomer of the Year, made the winning shot in last year's 60-59 upset of the Tigers, hitting a shot off the glass in the closing seconds at the Mabee Center. But in August, Craion fractured the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot and underwent surgery. Craion's played in just two games, since being cleared to play in late November, but re-aggravated his foot in practice last week and missed the Golden Eagles' game at Oklahoma last weekend, and will likely miss the game against Missouri.
Morrison is a tough match-up for the Tigers. It would appear that Missouri's Kim English may draw the defensive assignment of guarding Morrison, and that's a match-up that strongly favors ORU. But, it might make more sense for Coach Anderson to assign Marcus Denmon to guard Morrison. Missouri will have the advantage in match-ups just about everywhere else on the court, and the Tigers will likely remember last year's defeat at the Mabee Center.
On Monday, Coach Anderson talked about getting his team back in the practice gym, after playing a lot of games in a short span, and working towards the identity which he seeks for his team.
"Having the opportunity to get back and really just work on those things," said Coach Anderson. "And, get our guys in the mindset, that defense is going to be first. We're going to hang our hats on our defense. Our offense will come and go, but our defense is something that's going to be the staple of our basketball team, and our basketball program."
Then, Coach Anderson went on to talk about taking care of the basketball.
It's significant that Coach Anderson began talking about defense, and ended up addressing taking care of the basketball. Those two fundamentals are so closely intertwined, that it's just a natural progression of topics. Good defensive players, people who are committed to playing great defense, just naturally, or perhaps as a by-product of their defensive mindset, tend to value the basketball. This is manifested in two ways. Solid fundamentals related to possessing the basketball. And, superior shot selection.Missouri features five double-digit scorers, led by Marcus Denmon's 16.4 points/game, and including Ricardo Ratliffe (11.9 points/game, 7.8 rebounds/game), Kim English (11 points/game), Michael Dixon (10.7 points/game, 4.3 assists/game), and Laurence Bowers (10.4 points/game, 6.2 rebounds/game).Michael Dixon's numbers will be missing from tonight's line-up due to his suspension. We will see who takes his spot in his absence.
The Tigers are getting some help off of the bench, in Justin Safford (7.3 points/game, 4.2 rebounds/game), Matt Pressey (6.2 points/game), Phil Pressey, and Steve Moore. On Monday, Coach Anderson admitted that he needs to get Ricky Kreklow more playing time, saying that the freshman can help this team, especially with his outside shooting.
Utilization of Missouri's depth is a key ingredient for this team, and the development of the younger players that comprise much of the Tigers' depth is under way. As always, it's to Missouri's advantage to play this game at a pace which is uncomfortably fast for the Golden Eagles.
Mizzou Oral Roberts
FGM: 272 229
FGA: 589 490
FG %: .462 .467
3pt FGM: 69 55
3pt FGA: 183 138
3FG %: .377 .399
FTM: 135 125
FTA: 191 205
FT % .707 .610
Points: 748 638
Per Game: 83.1 70.9
Reb./Gm 36.8 33.1
Steals 10.2 5.3
Assists: 17.4 12.6
Blocks: 5.1 3.6