On Monday (4:30 P.M., ESPN), the #9 Missouri Tigers (16-1, 3-1) play host to the Texas A&M Aggies (10-6, 1-3) in Big 12 Conference action.
The Tigers are coming off of an 84-73 victory over the Texas Longhorns. Like Missouri, the Aggies are coming in off of a home win on Saturday that sets up a short turnaround. Texas A&M defeated Texas Tech 67-54 for the Aggies first conference win.
Billy Kennedy is in his first year as the Aggies head coach. He and Frank Haith are friends who worked together at Miami. On Saturday, Coach Haith called Kennedy "one of my buddies". Coach Kennedy has 9 players who are averaging at least 10 minutes/game, five of whom are 6'7" or taller. One of the Aggies regulars, 6'9" sophomore forward Kourtney Roberson, is out with an injury, but Coach Kennedy has another 6'9" guy, red-shirt freshman forward Daniel Alexander, to plug into the rotation.
The Aggies have four double-digit scorers, led by 6'7" forward Khris Middleton's 13.2 points/game. He's joined by Elston Turner, who is also scoring 13.2 points/game, Ray Turner (10.6 points, 6.3 rebounds/game), and 6'8" senior forward David Loubeau (10.2 points, 4.4 rebounds/game).
The Aggies' point guard, 6'1" senior Dash Harris, doesn't look to score, but he is averaging 4.2 assists/game, and 1.4 steals/game. He carries a 2.3 assist/turnover ratio into Monday's contest, which ranks third in the conference (among those with at least 3 assists/game). Here's an interesting stat to keep in mind: Harris shoots just 46% from the FT line.
Texas A&M Starters (10-6) - Based on the most recent game
Pos. No. Name HT WT YR P/G R/G A/G S/G Hometown
F 10 David Loubeau 6-8 234 Sr. 10.2 4.4 0.5 0.4 Miami, Fla.
F 22 Khris Middleton 6-7 217 Jr. 13.2 5.4 2.8 1.0 North Charleston, S.C.
C 04 Keith Davis 6-10 231 So. 1.3 4.2 0.2 0.3 DeSoto, Texas
G 05 Dash Harris 6-1 171 Sr. 5.7 2.8 4.2 1.4 Los Angeles, Calif.
G 31 Elston Turner 6-5 211 Jr. 13.2 3.4 1.8 0.9 Sacramento, Calif.
With the quick turnaround, the Missouri staff dove right into preparation for Texas A&M, following their win over Texas on Saturday.
"I know (Texas A&M) is very talented and very capable," said Coach Haith. "They were picked to win this league. We have to be ready to play."
Like Texas A&M, Missouri has four players who average in double figures in scoring, led by the conference's second-leading scorer, in Marcus Denmon, with his 17.9 points/game, 5.3 rebounds/game, 2.6 assists/game, and 1.5 steals/game. And, Denmon carries a 3.5 assist/turnover ratio into Monday's contest. The Tigers' 6'3" All-American candidate posted the first double-double of his career against Texas, with 18 points and 11 rebounds. In conference play, teams are targeting Denmon with their defensive game plans. He's content just to win games.
Kim English (15 points/game, 4.6 rebounds/game), Ricardo Ratliffe (13.7 points/game, 6.8 rebounds/game), and sixth-man Michael Dixon (12.2 points/game) are each scoring in double-digits. Ratliffe leads the country, with his 77% field goal percentage. And, English is leading the country with his 3-PT field goal percentage.
Phil Pressey is coming off of his second career double-double, with 18 points and 10 assists against the Longhorns. In that game, Phil had 2 steals and zero turnovers. He's leading the conference in assists (6.1 assists/game), steals (2 steals/game), and with his 2.9 assist/turnover ratio. Conference teams are playing way off of Phil, and routinely going under screens, challenging him to shoot the basketball from the outside. On Saturday, Phil hit 3 of 7 3-PT shots, which is an effective 3-PT field goal percentage (43%).
"I think Missouri enjoys passing the ball," said Coach Barnes, following his team's loss at Missouri on Saturday. "They have four seniors, and they're playing with a totally different style than they've had in previous years. They don't have any egos, and their goal is to help Missouri as a team."
Missouri Starters (16-1) - 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. 13.7 6.8 0.8 0.7 Hampton, Va.
G 12 Marcus Denmon 6-3 185 Sr. 17.9 5.3 2.6 1.5 Kansas City, Mo.
G 24 Kim English 6-6 200 Sr. 15.0 4.6 1.6 1.2 Baltimore, Md.
G 03 Matt Pressey 6-2 195 Sr. 8.5 4.1 1.9 1.0 Dallas, Texas
G 01 Phil Pressey 5-10 175 So. 9.7 3.1 6.1 2.0 Dallas, Texas
Missouri and Texas A&M are almost polar opposites from a statistical standpoint. Missouri leads the Big 12 in scoring at 83.9 points/game, in field-goal percentage at 51% FG%, and in free-throw percentage (77% FT%). And, the Tigers are second in the conference in 3-PT field-goal percentage (40% 3-PT FG%).
Texas A&M is last in the Big 12 in scoring at 62.4 points/game, in free-throw percentage (62% FT%), and in 3-PT field-goal percentage (30% 3-PT FG%). But, the Aggies are first in the conference in scoring defense, surrendering just 57.5 points/game. And, Texas A&M is second in the conference in field-goal percentage defense (37% FG% against), and they lead the Big 12 in 3-PT field-goal percentage defense (28% 3-PT FG% against). So, Texas A&M is a more defensive-oriented team that tends to play low-scoring games. They do a great job of playing solid defense, and of contesting 3-PT shots. But, they are probably not going to win a high-scoring shootout.
Missouri beat the Longhorns in transition. I expect the Aggies to get back in transition, but Missouri changes ends like nobody else. A lot of the good looks that Missouri gets in transition are what would be referred to as secondary transition, where the defense takes away the fast-break lay-up, but a good shot is available off of a pass or two before the defense is able to match-up. Often times for Missouri, that shot is an uncontested 3-PT shot by someone who regularly makes a high percentage of those looks.
Following Saturday's game, Coach Barnes gave Missouri some very sound advice regarding his good friend, Frank Haith.
"Missouri did a great job to get (Coach Haith)," said Coach Barnes. "Now, they've got to do all they can to keep him. He's young, and he has a great future ahead of him."
Missouri Texas A&M
Record: 16-1 10-6
FGM: 409 382
FGA: 972 872
FG %: .512 .438
3pt FGM: 142 73
3pt FGA: 354 243
3FG %: .401 .300
FTM: 288 161
FTA: 375 259
FT % .768 .622
Points: 1426 998
Per Game: 83.9 62.4
Reb./Gm 34.2 38.4
Steals 9.1 5.5
Assists: 16.8 14.3
Blocks: 3.2 2.9