After a pair of conference road games, capped off with a 76-69 win in Ames over Iowa State, the #9 Missouri Tigers (15-1, 2-1) return to the friendly confines of Mizzou Arena on Saturday afternoon (12:00 P.M., ESPN2), to play host to the Texas Longhorns (12-4, 2-1).
Coach Rick Barnes brings his Longhorns in off of a 61-51 win over Texas A&M on Wednesday, and will face off against his former assistant, Frank Haith, who is in his first year as the head coach at Missouri. Coach Haith referred to Coach Barnes as "his best friend". He said that the two of them are "really close", and that playing against Texas is "like playing against your big brother".
Texas features the conference's leading scorer, in 6'1" junior guard J'Covan Brown, who is scoring 18.1 points/game. Brown is also handing out 4 assist/game, and is shooting 44% from the field, and 82% from the FT line. Brown is making 36% of his 3-PT shots, and has a 1.8 assist/turnover ratio. Brown's the Longhorn's leading shot taker, with 88 more shot attempts than any of his teammates. As Coach Haith said, Brown has "really gotten better and better, and has become the guy" for the Longhorns.
The Longhorns' 6'1" freshman guard Myck Kabongo is second in the conference in assists, at 5.3 assists/game. Kabongo is scoring 9.6 points/game, and has a 1.8 assist/turnover ratio. He's also averaging 1.3 steals/game, but is shooting the ball poorly, with a 40% FG%, and a 25% 3-PT FG%. And, Kabongo is making just 64% of his FTs. Still, Kabongo is a talent, and is a rapidly improving young player. Coach Haith called Kabongo "one of the best point guards in the country".
Another freshman guard, 6'4" Sheldon McClellan, is the Longhorns' second-leading scorer, at 11.8 points/game. He's making 46% of his field goals, and 75% of his FTs, but just 31% of his 3-PT attempts.
Texas Starters (12-4) - Based on the most recent game
Pos. No. Name HT WT YR P/G R/G A/G S/G Hometown
F 02 Jaylen Bond 6-7 224 Fr. 4.3 4.7 0.4 0.7 Philadelphia, Pa.
C 53 Clint Chapman 6-10 245 Sr. 6.1 5.8 0.4 0.3 Canby, Ore.
G 01 Sheldon McClellan 6-4 200 Fr. 11.8 3.4 0.4 1.0 Houston, Texas
G 12 Myck Kabongo 6-1 169 Fr. 9.6 3.6 5.3 1.3 Toronto, Ontario
G 14 J'Covan Brown 6-1 197 Jr. 18.1 3.4 4.0 1.3 Port Arthur, Texas
Another pair of freshmen, 6'3" guard Julien Lewis, and 6'7" forward Jonathan Holmes, are each averaging 8.8 points/game. Since the start of conference season, they've both been coming off of the bench. Lewis is the longhorns' second-leading shot taker. He's making 36% of his field goals, which is identical to his 3-PT FG%. Holmes shoots a good percentage from the field (53% FG%), and from the FT line (79% FT%), and he's also grabbing 5.4 rebounds/game.
"We do some of the same things," said Coach Haith, talking about what he expected from the Longhorns. "They're going to be disciplined. They're going to play hard-nosed. They've gotten better and better each week, because they're a young team. Chapman has really improved, and he gives them a presence in the paint. They're going to compete. They're going to compete. They're going to be like their coach. They're going to be very tough!"
Missouri leads the Big 12 in eight statistical categories, including scoring (83.9 points/game), scoring margin (21.6), FT percentage (77 FT%), field goal percentage (51% FG%), assists (16.63 assists/game), steals (9.25 steals/game), turnover margin (+5.56), and assist/turnover ratio (1.64 A/T ratio).
"You've got to be impressed with the numbers they score, and way they just throttle people," said Coach Barnes, talking about the Missouri Tigers. "I don't care who you play. I don't care what kind of schedule you play, when you beat people like that, and become as efficient as they have become. People look at them and say that they're undersized. But, I think that (Coach Haith) has done a tremendous job, and his players have certainly done a tremendous job of buying in, because they look like a very cohesive team. They look like they enjoy playing together. They move the ball. They share the ball. They're just a team. That's what you've got to be impressed with, the way that they seem to like each other, and like playing with each other. Watching them, there's certainly some things that they do that are similar to what we do, in terms of our offenses. Frank's done a great job with them! The biggest key is that they've bought in. Defensively, I really like the way that they're guarding people. They're legit. Everything that's happened to them, they deserve. They've earned it."
Missouri Starters (15-1) - 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. 13.3 6.9 0.8 0.9 Hampton, Va.
G 12 Marcus Denmon 6-3 185 Sr. 18.1 4.9 2.6 1.5 Kansas City, Mo.
G 24 Kim English 6-6 200 Sr. 15.1 4.6 1.6 1.3 Baltimore, Md.
G 03 Matt Pressey 6-2 195 Sr. 8.7 4.3 1.9 1.0 Dallas, Texas
G 01 Phil Pressey 5-10 175 So. 9.2 3.3 5.8 2.0 Dallas, Texas
Marcus Denmon is second in scoring in the Big 12, at 17.9 points/game. The Silent Assassin is first in the conference, at 93% FT%, and fifth in the Big 12, with his 49% FG%, and his 43% 3-PT FG%. He's sixth in the conference, at 1.5 steals/game, and is among the league leaders, with his 2.6 assist/game. He's second on the team in rebounding, at 4.9 rebounds/game, and he has a 3.5 assist/turnover ratio!
Denmon has drawn the increased defensive focus of Missouri's opponents, which opens things up for his teammates. Coach Haith talked about what he wants from Denmon when the opponent slants their defense to stop the Tigers' All-American candidate.
"We just need Marcus to be within himself," said Coach Haith, who also explained that Denmon just needs to work harder at doing the fundamentals. "I don't want him to feel any pressure that he has to get 25 points for us to win. Marcus understands that."
Kim English is the fifth-leading scorer in the Big 12, at 15.1 points/game. He's leading the nation, with his 53% 3-PT FG%. And, English is pulling down 4.6 rebounds/game.
Ricardo Ratliffe is scoring 13.3 points/game, and grabbing 6.9 rebounds/game. Ratliffe leads the nation, with his 77% FG%. Yet, Ratliffe is only fifth on this team in field goal attempts. His teammates need to do a better job of getting him the basketball.
Mike Dixon is scoring 12.8 points/game off of Missouri's bench. Dixon is also averaging 2.8 assists/game. Yet, Dixon is second on the team in field goal attempts, despite having the sixth-best FG%, at just over 41% from the field. And, his assist/turnover ratio has fallen to 1.8 assist/turnover. Dixon is shooting the basketball too much, given his shooting percentage in relationship to his teammates'. He's one of the ones who needs to work on getting the ball to Ratliffe in places where the big man likes it. Dixon's been more solid defensively, and he's still picking up steals at the rate of 1.7 steals/game. I'd like to see him get to the FT line more often, as he's making 91% of his FTs.
Phil Pressey is playing better. He's more solid defensively, and he is doing a good job of finding his teammates. Phil is scoring 9.2 points/game, and is collecting a league-leading 5.8 assists/game, and 2 steals/game. In fact, Missouri has three of the league's top six pilferers of the basketball! Phil Pressey also has a league-leading 2.66 assist/turnover ratio (for those with at least 3 assists/game). He's doing a lot of things well, but shooting the basketball is not one of them. Phil is making just 38% of his field goal attempts, and just 26% from behind the 3-PT arc, both completely unacceptable numbers, especially for someone with so many shot attempts on a team with so many high-percentage shooters.
Coach Haith talked about wanting Phil Pressey to run the offense early in the shot clock.
"Those shots that he's taken early in the possession, you can get that same shot late in the (shot) clock," explained Coach Haith. "Let's just run the offense. Keep moving, run the offense. You're going to get that shot late in the clock, too."
Coach Haith explained that if Phil runs the offense, that he'll get shots in rhythm, shots that Coach believes will allow Phil to shoot a higher percentage.
Matt Pressey has really raised the level of his play. He's giving the Tigers solid defensive play, often guarding the opponents' best player. And, he's scoring 8.7 points/game, and pulling down 4.3 rebounds/game. Matt is also handing out 1.9 assists/game, and has a 2.2 assist/turnover ratio, which is the third highest on the team. But, where Matt has really improved is in the quality of the shots that he's taking. He's raised his field goal percentage to 46% FG%. He's taking more two-point shots, and getting to the basket more.
Steve Moore completes Missouri's 7-man rotation. He's playing just under 17 minutes/game, by far the fewest of Missouri's Magnificent Seven, but his minutes, and his play, have been critical to the Tigers' early-season success. Moore's contribution isn't readily apparent on the stat sheet, except that he shoots a good percentage (62%), he has more assists than turnovers (1.3 A/T ratio), and he leads the team in blocked shots (22). Big Steve gives the Tigers a physical presence, and he's by far Missouri's best interior defender.
Record: 15-1 12-4
FGM: 469 408
FGA: 918 907
FG %: .511 .450
3pt FGM: 132 99
3pt FGA: 333 304
3FG %: .396 .326
FTM: 272 296
FTA: 354 414
FT % .768 .715
Points: 1342 1211
Per Game: 83.9 75.7
Reb./Gm 34.7 38.0
Steals 9.3 7.4
Assists: 16.6 13.1
Blocks: 3.1 4.3