On Tuesday rs (18-10, 6-8). evening (7:00 P.M., Big 12 Network), the #22/#24 Missouri Tigers (22-7, 8-6) travel to Lincoln (NE) to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Nebraska is coming off of an 83-82 OT loss at Iowa State. Missouri comes in off of an 80-70 loss at Kansas State.
Last month in Columbia, Marcus Denmon scored 27 points, as Missouri prevailed 77-69 over Nebraska.
"Nebraska's playing with a lot of confidence right now," said Missouri Head Coach Mike Anderson, as he talked about taking on the Cornhuskers in Lincoln. "They play well at home.......................... I think (playing at Nebraska) will be a tremendous challenge.......................... (Our two teams) are kind of a contrast in styles, but the bottom line is that both teams hang their hats on their defense."
Leading the way for Doc Sadler's troops is 6'3" senior G Lance Jeter, who has posted the following statistics in conference play: 12.6 points/game, 4.8 rebounds/game, 4.9 assists/game, 1.7 steals/game. Jeter is an extremely physical player, who will be a difficult match-up for the smaller Missouri point guards.
In the two teams' previous meeting, 6'6" junior F Toney McCray (11.5 points/game, 3.9 rebounds/game, in conference play) had a big game, with 17 points, and has been on a roll ever since. McCray fits the profile of a small forward, but is physical, and athletic, enough to play inside.
In the middle for Nebraska, 6'11" sophomore C Jorge Brian Diaz (10.1 points/game, 4.3 rebounds/game, in conference play) experienced some match-up difficulties against Missouri earlier in the season. He thrives down on the low block, and can be exposed when the game becomes end-to-end.
Like just about every other small forward in the conference, 6'4" junior G Caleb Walker (7.1 points/game, 4.7 rebounds/game, in conference play) enjoyed a big game against Missouri, when the two teams met earlier this season.
Completing the starting line-up for Doc Sadler's crew is 6'0" junior G Brandon Richardson (8.3 points/game, in conference play). Richardson is a tough match-up, as well, and is capable of scoring big numbers.
Nebraska's bench is deep, and includes experienced players, in 6'4" senior G Drake Beranek, 6'4" sophomore G Eshaunte Jones, 6'11" junior C Andre Almeida, 6'10" sophomore F Brandon Ubel, and 6'2" sophomore G Ray Gallegos.
Obviously, Doc Sadler's team wants to walk it up, and play a half court, possession game. They want to pound the ball inside to their big men on offense, and pack it in on the defensive end. On offense, the Cornhuskers will, at times, go inside out. When they do, the guys who have shot it from behind the arc during conference play are Jeter (33%), Jones (38%), Walker (40%), and McCray (44%).
The Cornhuskers, who are scoring 65.8 points/game in conference play, want to avoid getting into a fast-paced, full-court game with the Tigers. On the season, the Cornhuskers rank 5th nationally in FG% defense, holding opponents to 38.4% shooting from the field.
On Monday, Doc Sadler talked about Missouri.
"Missouri's a team that relies a lot on their defense," said Coach Sadler. "Offensively, they do an excellent job.......................... Not too many people talk about the the lack of turnovers in their half-court offense............................ They're just a very, very good basketball team.
Marcus Denmon continues to lead Missouri in scoring, at 16.1 points/game, in conference play. Laurence Bowers (11.1 points/game, 5.9 rebounds/game, in conference play) has really been playing well of late.
Missouri has three players scoring in dou
ble-figures in conference play, and six players who average at least 7 points/game, in conference play. Missouri can score. Based on their entire season, the Tigers rank sixth nationally in scoring, at 82.8 points/game.
But, it's Missouri's defense that just hasn't been up to snuff.
And, it's going to require defensive intensity to create the pace at which Missouri wants to play, a pace that will reduce the effectiveness of Nebraska's big men, and neutralize the Cornhuskers' size advantage. For Missouri, dictating the pace of the game begins on the defensive end.
On the season, the Tigers rank third nationally in steals, at 9.7 steals/game, and fourth nationally in turnover margin, at +5.3 turnovers/game.
On Monday, Coach Anderson talked about how his team needs to "play smart" on both ends of the floor. He talked about the need to do their work early, on the defensive end, as an answer to the foul trouble some of his players have experienced on the road.
That's one of the biggest problems that many players on this year's Missouri team have experienced on the defensive end. They don't move their feet, and they don't get, and maintain, good early position. And as a result, they often find themselves playing catch-up, and reaching, and holding, in a effort to regain position.
Coach Anderson talked about how he'd like to see his team playing well at this point in the season, as they head into these big games at the end of the regular season.
As Coach Sadler said, "It's another big game....................... There's two games left, and both of those games are huge!"
FGM: 869 690
FGA: 1846 1475
FG %: .471 .468
3pt FGM: 216 147
3pt FGA: 575 454
3FG %: .376 .324
FTM: 448 370
FTA: 615 520
FT % .728 .712
Points: 2402 1897
Per Game: 82.8 67.8
Reb./Gm 36.2 35.5
Steals 9.7 6.6
Assists: 16.9 13.1
Blocks: 5.3 3.6