On Saturday night (8:00 P.M., ESPNU), the #13/#14 Missouri Tigers (16-3, 2-2) play host to the Iowa State Cyclones (14-5, 1-3), in Big 12 Conference action. The Cyclones are coming into Columbia off of a midweek 87-96 OT loss at Oklahoma State.
In that overtime road loss, Iowa State played well for most of regulation, but faded down the stretch. Coach Fred Hoiberg plays with just seven players, and in Stillwater, he rode his starters hard. In that game, 6'4" senior G Diante Garrett (17.9 points/game, 3.7 rebounds/game, 3.3 assists/game, 2 steals/game) played all 45 minutes, and 6'3" junior G Scott Christopherson (14 points/game) played 43 minutes. That's not really unusual, as those two each average 35 minutes/game. Garrett is a super stat sheet stuffer.
It looks like Coach Hoiberg's main criteria for his players to earn playing time at Iowa State may be for them to demonstrate the ability to shoot the three. Six of the seven guys who play for Coach Hoiberg have attempted at least one 3-PT shot per game. Three of those Cylones have each attempted over 100 3-PT shots this season, including Garrett, who makes 31% of his 3-PT attempts. Garrett has taken more than one-and-a-half times as many shots as the next Iowa State player, although only 36% of his shot attempts are from behind the arc.
Christopherson makes 50% of his 3-PT attempts, and 55% of his FG attempts are taken from beyond the arc.
The Cyclones' third-leading scorer is 6'11" senior F Jamie Vanderbeken (12.2 points/game, 5.9 rebounds/game, 2 blocks/game), who is making 47% of his 3-PT attempts. Nearly two out of every three shots that the big man takes are from behind the 3-PT line.
Completing Coach Hoiberg's iron-man starting line-up are 6'6" freshman F Melvin Ejim (11.5 points/game, 7.1 rebounds/game), and 6'2" senior G Darion "Jake" Anderson (11.5 points/game, 8 rebouds/game).
Iowa State does a real good job of taking care of the basketball, with a team-wide 1.3 A/T ratio, although the guy who usually has the basketball in his hands is Garrett, and the senior guard has a 1.9 A/T ratio.
The Cyclones were badly out-rebounded in Stillwater, but made up for that deficiency by getting to the FT line frequently, and by making their FTs.
Iowa State is an opponent against whom Missouri should have a rebounding advantage.
The Tigers are coming off of a very good performance against Kansas State, and as Coach Anderson likes to say, they are a "work in progress". I would agree with Coach's assessment, especially on the defensive end, which is where the Tigers "hang their hat". Another facet of Missouri that is in a progressive state is in the evolution of the Tigers' playing rotation.
The return to the line-up, and the continued development, of freshman G Phillip "Flip" Pressey, has given Coach Anderson improved depth, and increased options, with respect to the distribution of minutes among his back court players, and the various line-up combinations that he is able to utilize.
Like Iowa State, Missouri has five players who are averaging in double figures in scoring. Missouri's headliner is junior G Marcus Denmon (17.5 points/game, 3.9 rebounds/game, 2 assists/game, 1.9 steals/game), who is connecting on 50% of his 3-PT shots this seasopn.
Laurence Bowers (11.8 points/game, 6.1 rebounds/game) and Ricardo Ratliffe (11.7 points/game, 7 rebounds/game), a pair of 6'8" junior forwards, give Missouri a formidable inside duo, to complement their equally dynamic back court.
In addition to Flip Pressey (5.9 points/game, 3.7 assists/game), who's playing an increased role off of the bench for Missouri, during conference play, sophomore G Michael Dixon (10.7 points/game, 4.7 assists/game) gives the Tigers a tag team duo at the point guard position, and that may pay some dividends against Iowa State's Garrett.
Wearing down Garrett, as well as making Vanderbeken change ends frequently, could provide the Tigers with an edge going down the stretch.
As always for Missouri, it all starts on the defensive end. Any time that the Tigers consistently play with great defensive intensity from the beginning to the end of the game, they have a real good chance to win, especially when they're at home.
Coach Anderson acknowledged that his second unit may be playing better than his first unit, and he seemed pretty pleased with that development. He suggested that the decision to bring Bowers off of the bench during conference play has helped to balance the first and second units.
I don't think there's any question that the second unit is playing better defense than the starters.
Missouri Iowa State
FGM: 587 542
FGA: 1230 1168
FG %: .477 .450
3pt FGM: 146 177
3pt FGA: 379 453
3FG %: .385 .391
FTM: 295 236
FTA: 413 332
FT % .709 .711
Points: 1613 1465
Per Game: 84.9 77.1
Reb./Gm 37.1 38.5
Steals 9.9 7.4
Assists: 18.0 15.4
Blocks: 5.7 4.2