On Saturday afternoon (12:00 P.M., ESPN2) in College Station, the #14/#13 Texas A&M Aggies (15-1, 2-0) play host to the #15/#12 Missouri Tigers (15-2, 1-1). Missouri comes in off of a home win over Nebraska, while A&M prevailed at home, 71-48 over Oklahoma State, in their most recent outing.
"We know going on the road (to College Station) is going to be awfully tough," said Missouri Head Coach, Mike Anderson, talking about playing at Texas A&M.
Texas A&M is led in scoring by 6'7" sophomore F Khris Middleton (15 points/game, 4.6 rebounds/game, 2.9 assists/game), followed by fellow starters, in 6'8" junior F David Loubeau (11.4 points/game, 5.1 rebounds/game), and 6'7" senior F Nathan Walkup (10.3 points/game, 6.1 rebounds/game).
Completing Coach Mark Turgeon's starting line-up are 5'11" senior G B.J. Holmes (9.3 points/game, 3.6 assists/game), and 6'1" junior G Dash Harris (3.8 points/game, 3.8 assists/game). Along with Middleton (1.2 A/T ratio), Holmes (2.2 A/T ratio) and Harris (1.8 A/T ratio) are the only ones playing for Texas A&M that have more assists than turnovers on the season.
Holmes is also the Aggies' leading 3-PT shooter (40% 3-PT FG%). Middleton (38% 3-PT FG%) and Walkup (40% 3-PT FG%) are also shooting a good percentage from beyond the arc, as is sixth man, 6'6" sophomore G Naji Hibbert (7.3 points/game, 38% 3-PT FG%).
Coach Turgeon will probably play 9 guys, including 6'8" sophomore F Ray Turner (4.3 points/game, 3.8 rebounds/game), 6'9" freshman F Kourtney Roberson (6 points/game, 4.4 rebounds/game), and 6'1" senior G Andrew Darko.
As you can see, Texas A&M has good size, which is further evidenced in their having out-rebounded their opponents by over 12 boards/game. Six of their top nine players are 6'6" or taller. The Aggies are balanced in their scoring, while averaging over 72 points/game, and they share the ball very well, averaging over 15 assists/game. But, A&M's identity is their defensive mindset. The Aggies are holding opponents to under 56 points/game. And, A&M's opponents are shooting just 38% from the field, and under 29% from beyond the arc.
Marcus Denmon's 27-point outing against Nebraska raised his team-leading scoring average to 17.6 points/game. Denmon, who is also grabbing 3.9 rebounds/game, dishing out 1.9 assists/game, and coming up with 1.9 steals/game, is shooting over 50% from beyond the arc. Denmon's teammates are starting to look for him more than they did earlier in the season, and it's obvious that Denmon is being encouraged to be more aggressive offensively, but he's still taking almost entirely good quality shots that come within the offense. Teams are getting up on him more. Opposing coaches are targeting him, and Denmon's response has been to drive the ball to the basket a little more. He's doing a great job of moving without the basketball, and his teammates are trying to set screens to free him up whenever they can.
A couple of Missouri's big men, who are also shooting a pretty good percentage, from inside the arc, are Laurence Bowers (12.2 points/game, 6.2 rebounds/game, 2.4 blocks/game) and Ricardo Ratliffe (11.4 points/game, 7 rebounds/game). Michael Dixon (11.1 points/game, 4.2 assists/game, 2.6 A/T ratio, 85% FT%) is playing well on both ends of the floor, and Kim English (10.6 points/game) gives the Tigers five players averaging in double figures in scoring.
Missouri is scoring over 85 points/game, and they're sharing the basketball, assisting on over 58% of their made baskets, at 18.1 assists/game. The Tigers are averaging over 10 steals/game, and Missouri's opponents are averaging 19.2 turnovers/game.
These are two good teams, worthy of their rankings, and this game will challenge both teams. This game will probably represent each team's toughest opponent so far this season.
Hopefully for Missouri, Coach Anderson's squad will be ready to elevate their defensive intensity even more. On the road, where you likely won't be allowed to reach, and play defense with your hands, the Tigers will need to move their feet. They need to bring a defensive mindset with them that we haven't really seen this season. That's what it's probably going to take to come away from College Station with a victory.
Missouri Texas A&M
FGM: 527 392 FGA: 1108 860 FG %: .476 .456 3pt FGM: 128 92 3pt FGA: 335 263 3FG %: .382 .350 FTM: 267 297 FTA: 367 387 FT % .728 .725 Points: 1449 1164 Per Game: 85.2 72.8 Reb./Gm 37.6 39.5 Steals 10.2 6.9 Assists: 18.1 15.3 Blocks: 5.8 2.0