On Wednesday night (8:00 P.M., ESPN2), the Baylor Bears (17-9, 6-6) play host to the #20/#21 Missouri Tigers (21-6, 7-5) in Big 12 Conference play. Missouri comes in off of a 76-70 win at Iowa State, while Baylor's most recent outing was a disappointing 69-78 loss at home to Texas Tech.
Baylor Head Coach Scott Drew described this Wednesday's game at Missouri as a "must game" for his Bears.
Missouri Head Coach Mike Anderson expressed some of his concerns about playing against Baylor.
"(Baylor has) size and athletic ability," said Coach Anderson. "They're a team to be reckoned with. Their length and athletic ability is second to none in the country. That's the thing that concerns me. If it's just a half-court game, then I think that tends to favor Baylor."
Coach Drew's Bears are led in scoring by 6'4" senior G Lacedarius Dunn, who is also leading the Big 12 Conference in scoring, at 20.8 points/game, and recently became Baylor's career scoring leader, with 2,196 points for his career. With just 61 more points, Dunn will move past former Texas Tech great, Andre Emmit, to become the Big 12's all-time leading scorer. Dunn also averages 4.1 rebounds/game, and 2.3 assists/game.
In conference play, half of Dunn's field goal attempts have come from behind the 3-PT line, where he's connecting on 39% of his 3-PT FGAs.
Baylor's second leading scorer is the very rapidly developing 6'11" freshman F Perry Jones III, who is averaging 14.3 points/game, and 7 rebounds/game for the Bears. Perry is an NBA-type talent who is improving weekly.
Another young player who has made great strides during this season for Coach Drew is 6'1" sophomore G A.J. Walton (8.2 points/game, 5 assists/game, 2.4 steals/game). As a team, Baylor struggles to take care of the basketball, with a cumulative 0.72 A/T ratio. Walton, with a 1.4 A/T ratio, is one of just two players, including 6'3" freshman G Stargell Love, who comes off of the bench for the Bears, who have more assists than turnovers on the season. And, Walton's a 40% 3-PT shooter.
Coach Drew's starting line-up includes 6'10" junior F Anthony Jones (8.5 points/game, 5.5 rebounds/game), and most likely, 6'11" junior F/C J'mison Morgan. For his height, Anthony Jones plays more like a perimeter player. In conference play, he's shooting 50% from behind the 3-PT line.
Former starter, 6'7" junior F Quincy Acy (12.4 points/game, 7.5 rebounds/game), has recently been coming off of the bench for the Bears. Acie does all of his damage from inside the arc.
Completing Coach Drew's eight-man rotation is 6'6" junior F Fred Ellis.
The Bears want to walk it up the floor, and play a half-court basketball game. They're not as dominant on the boards as their length would suggest. In conference play, Baylor's enjoyed a small rebound advantage, averaging just one more rebound/game than their opponents. And in conference play, Baylor's been outscored, on average, by their opponents, through their first 12 games.
"Missouri is undefeated at home for a reason," began Coach Drew, as he talked about playing the Tigers. "(They have a) great crowd! They do a tremendous job of protecting home court. They're very aggressive defensively, and they get a lot of buckets in transition."
As Coach Drew's assessment might suggest, the pace of the game will be a vital factor in this contest. Aggressive defense by Missouri, resulting in a plethora of Baylor turnovers, and fast break opportunities for Missouri, would foster the kind of helter-skelter pace of play that would mightily favor the Tigers.
The Tigers' big three, juniors Marcus Denmon (16.6 points/game, 51% FG%), Ricardo Ratliffe (11.4 points/game, 59% FG%, 6.4 rebounds/game), and Laurence Bowers (11.1 points/game, 54% FG%, 5.8 rebounds/game), provide the Tigers with intelligent play, and offensive efficiency.
The task of defending Dunn, the soon-to-be all-time leading scorer in Big 12 history, will likely fall to Denmon. But, Missouri's best formula for success against Baylor resides within waves of swarming Tigers, wreaking havoc with the Bears from end-to-end, by playing the kind of defense opon which Coach Anderson would like to hang his hat.
FGM: 818 645
FGA: 1730 1353
FG %: .473 .477
3pt FGM: 200 141
3pt FGA: 533 396
3FG %: .375 .356
FTM: 419 425
FTA: 576 612
FT % .727 .694
Points: 2255 1856
Per Game: 83.5 71.4
Reb./Gm 36.7 35.7
Steals 9.5 7.4
Assists: 17.1 12.3
Blocks: 5.2 4.1