On Wednesday night (8:00 P.M., ESPN2) in Stillwater (OK), the Oklahoma State Cowboys (14-7, 2-5) play host to the #14/#15 Missouri Tigers (17-4, 3-3). The Cowboys are coming off of a 74-75 OT loss at Texas Tech.
For Missouri, their road woes continued, with a loss at Texas on Saturday.
Oklahoma State Head Coach Travis Ford has had to do a lot of shuffling with his line-up this season, and has just two players who have started every game for the Cowboys. Not coincidentally, those two, 5'9" junior G Keiton Page (13.7 points/game, 1.9 assists/game), and 6'7" senior F Marshall Moses (15.5 points/game, 8.1 rebounds/game), lead Oklahoma State in minutes played, and in scoring. Page shoots the basketball very well. Over half of his shots have come from behind the 3-PT line, where he leads the Cowboys, with a 35% 3-PT FG%. Page is also an excellent FT shooter (91% FT%). The physical Moses is doing most of his damage on the inside, where he's performing at a very high level.
Coach Ford's most recent starting line-up includes 6'5" sophomore G/F Jéan-Paul Olukemi (11.6 points/game, 4 rebounds/game), 6'3" freshman G Markel Brown (5.8 points/game), and 6'8" junior F Darrell Williams (6.2 points/game, 6.8 rebounds/game).
Three former starters comprise most of Oklahoma State's bench, 5'9" sophomore G Ray Penn (7 points/game, 2.5 assists/game), 6'8" senior F Matt Pilgrim (4.7 points/game, 4.5 rebounds/game), and 6'4" senior G Nick Sidorakis.
Sophomore G Fred Gulley has missed all of the conference season due to shoulder surgery.
At times, Oklahoma State really struggles to put the ball in the hole. The Cowboys are shooting just 44% from the field, and a paltry 30% from behind the 3-PT line, for the season. Surprisingly, with respect to those shooting percentages, Oklahoma State is hitting 72% of their FTs. The Cowboys are averaging 70 points/game.
Another area of concern for Oklahoma State, especially against Missouri, is that as a team, the Cowboys have committed more turnovers than they have handed out assists (219/288). In fact, only two players on Coach Ford's team, Page and Penn, have more assists than turnovers on the season.
Similarly to Missouri, Oklahoma State has been out-rebounded in conference play.
For Missouri, this contest hinges on their defensive intensity, and the intelligence with which they play. Those two key factors have failed the Tigers on the road in conference play. Ergo, their 0-3 conference road record.
To win on the road, Missouri must defend well, and get the ball to their most efficient scorers. That would be Marcus Denmon (16.8 points/game, 3.9 rebounds/game, 50% FG%, 48% 3-PT FG%), and Ricardo Ratliffe (11.6 points/game, 6.8 rebounds/game, 57% FG%). Laurence Bowers (11.1 points/game, 5.9 rebounds/game, 53% FG%, 2.1 blocks/game) is another pretty effective scorer, if he is able to play in this game, after taking one on the chin against Texas that resulted in a TKO.
Missouri's Mike Dixon and Flip Pressey are providing the Tigers with very good production from the point guard position, especially in league play, where the duo are combining for over 17 points/game, over 5 rebounds/game, over 6 assists/game, and 3.5 steals/game. And, the two have combined to shoot 40% from behind the 3-PT line in league play.
Missouri Head Coach Mike Anderson talked about the difficulty of winning on the road in the Big 12 Conference.
"I think our league is pretty good," began Coach Anderson. "Every team is good. And, every team is good at home. First of all, you've got to defend. And, you've got to shoot the ball well, and you've got to take care of the basketball, and rebound the basketball....................... Our league is really good, from top to bottom......................... A lot of things have to go right (to win on the road). You've got to seize the opportunities that are in front of you. There are windows of opportunities for you to win. You've got to be in position to win, first of all. Then, down the stretch, you've got to make the plays going down the stretch."
Playing good defense, and rebounding the basketball, are functions of a mindset, just as is taking care of the basketball.
Shooting the ball well is primarily a function of taking good shots, and of having your most efficient scorers take those shots.
Missouri Oklahoma State
FGM: 640 508
FGA: 1364 1157
FG %: .469 .439
3pt FGM: 160 94
3pt FGA: 426 311
3FG %: .376 .302
FTM: 318 359
FTA: 446 496
FT % .713 .724
Points: 1758 1469
Per Game: 83.7 70.0
Reb./Gm 38.0 35.5
Steals 9.8 7.0
Assists: 17.4 10.4
Blocks: 5.7 2.8