On Friday (7:00 P.M., MSN), the #13 Missouri Tigers (6-0) play host to the Northwestern State Demons (4-3). Northwestern State, riding a two-game win streak, faces its biggest challenge in five seasons when the Demons take on Missouri at Mizzou Arena.
The Tigers are the highest-ranked opponent for the Demons since NSU visited #8 Marquette in an 83-67 defeat on Dec. 1, 2006. NSU is aiming for its second-ever victory over a ranked foe, following the March 17, 2006 first-round NCAA Tournament triumph over #15 Iowa.
"Northwestern State is an athletic bunch," said Missouri Head Coach Frank Haith, talking about his team's next opponent. "They've got one of the best shot blockers in the country."
Indeed, Northwestern State's 6'7" senior center, William Mosley, ranks third in the NCAA, with his 4.3 blocked shots/game. Mosley is averaging 8.4 points/game, and 9.9 rebounds.
The Demons are led in scoring by their 6'6" junior guard Shamir Davis, who at 12.3 points/game is the Demons' only double-digit scorer. But, everyone is making a contribution for Northwestern State, and 13th-year Head Coach Mike McConathy is regularly playing ten or more people. The Demons' starting line-up is similar in size to Missouri's.
Northwestern State Starters (4-3) - Based on the most recent game
Pos. No. Name HT WT YR P/G R/G A/G S/G Hometown
G 22 Louis Ellis 6-2 190 Sr. 8.1 3.7 2.3 1.4 Shreveport, LA
G 01 Demetrice Jacobs 6-3 190 Jr. 5.1 2.4 1.3 1.7 Harlem, N.Y.
G 0 Shamir Davis 6-0 187 Jr. 12.3 2.3 2.4 1.1 Shreveport, LA
G/F 34 Gary Roberson 6-4 240 Jr. 8.7 3.9 0.4 0.7 Natchitoches, LA
C 42 William Mosely 6-7 220 Sr. 8.4 9.9 0.9 1.0 Shreveport, LA
Missouri Starters (6-0) - Based on the most recent game
Pos. No. Name HT WT YR P/G R/G A/G S/G Hometown
F 10 Ricardo Ratli?e 6-8 240 Sr. 12.5 6.5 0.8 1.0 Hampton, Va.
G 12 Marcus Denmon 6-3 185 Sr. 18.5 4.2 2.0 1.8 Kansas City, Mo.
G 24 Kim English 6-6 200 Sr. 18.2 5.0 2.0 1.0 Baltimore, Md.
G 03 Matt Pressey 6-2 195 Sr. 7.0 3.7 1.8 1.0 Dallas, Texas
G 01 Phil Pressey 5-10 175 So. 10.2 3.5 4.7 3.0 Dallas, Texas
And like Missouri, Northwestern State doesn't have a lot of size on their bench, either. A 6'8" junior forward, James Hulbin, is scoring 7.8 points/game, and grabbing 3 rebounds/game for the Demons. A pair of good-sized guards come off of the bench for Coach McConathy, in 6'4" Gary Stewart, who averages 5.5 points/game, and 6'6" sophomore Patrick Robinson.
As a team, Northwestern State is shooting just 39% from the field this season, and 27% from behind the 3-PT line. They're not shooting great at the FT line (59%) either.
But, NSU is coming off its best game of the season, a not-that-close 80-65 romp past 2011 NCAA Tournament entry Arkansas-Little Rock. In that game, the Demons posted their best shooting stats this season, hitting 45.5 percent from the field, making 38 percent (8-21) on 3-pointers, and sinking 71 percent of their free throws. Those are much better numbers than their season shooting statistics.
"We took good shots. We worked hard to get the ball in the right positions, and we made good decisions," said Coach McConathy.
According to their head coach, matching up against Missouri is a big challenge for the Demons.
"Frank Haith has them playing very well," said Coach McConathy. "They are as athletic and active as we may have seen in my time here. But, we're long and active ourselves. If we will be mentally and physically tough, and make good decisions with the ball, and play aggressively like we have recently on defense, we hopefully can make it interesting."
The Demons are averaging 8.4 blocks and 9.6 steals per game, ranking among the nation's leaders in both categories.
One important statistic to note, when looking at Northwestern State, is that as a team, they're turning the ball over at a high rate (15.5 turnovers/game), and they have almost one-and-a-half times as many turnovers as assists.
Defensively, the Demons are not only a prodigious shot-blocking team, but they are also causing their opponents to turn the ball over at a high rate (17.7 turnovers/game). In truth, it appears that Northwestern State is much better defensively than they are on the offensive end.
And, it appears to me that Northwestern State's rate of turnovers is about to increase, as the Tigers have shown a propensity for turning over better ball-handling teams than are the Demons.
If the Tigers play their customary defense, take care of the basketball, and shoot anywhere close to the way that they have been, then Missouri should be 7-0 when they head to New York next Tuesday to play Villanova in the Jimmy V Classic.
Missouri Northwestern State
Record: 6-0 4-3
FGM: 173 157
FGA: 333 400
FG %: .520 .393
3pt FGM: 55 35
3pt FGA: 127 132
3FG %: .433 .265
FTM: 113 121
FTA: 147 207
FT % .769 .585
Points: 514 470
Per Game: 85.7 67.1
Reb./Gm 33.5 39.1
Steals 10.8 9.6
Assists: 15.3 11.6
Blocks: 3.5 7.9