Ever since Jean-Paul Olukemi tore his ACL in early January, just days after Roger Dowell and Fred Gulley had left the team, Oklahoma State Head Coach Travis Ford has found himself playing with an 8-man rotation.
The Cowboys' leading scorer is 5'9" senior guard Keiton Page, who averages 14.9 points/game. But, Oklahoma State's best player is 6'7" freshman forward Le'Bryan Nash, who is averaging 12.5 points/game and 4.9 rebounds/game. Nash is a high-level talent who is learning on the fly.
Earlier this week, Missouri Head Coach Frank Haith talked about Oklahoma State.
"(Oklahoma State) is a young team that is getting better and better," said Coach Haith. "I know that they're well-coached. They're getting better. Obviously, Page is an outstanding guard. And Nash, their freshman, is starting to play better."
Coach Ford has some serious size up front, with 6'8" red-shirt freshman forward Michael Cobbins (4.6 rebounds/game), and a pair of seven-footers, in junior center Phillip Jurick (5.7 rebounds/game), and freshman Marek Soucek. Jurick usually starts for the Cowboys, while Soucek comes off of the Oklahoma State bench.
Oklahoma State Starters (9-10) - Based on the most recent game
Pos. No. Name HT WT YR P/G R/G A/G S/G Hometown
F 02 Le'Bryan Nash 6-7 230 Fr. 1.5 4.9 1.1 0.4 Dallas, Texas
F 20 Michael Cobbins 6-8 220 R-Fr. 5.2 4.6 0.6 0.6 Amarillo, Texas
G 04 Brian Williams 6-5 205 R-Fr. 6.1 2.9 0.5 0.3 Baton Rouge, La.
G 12 Keiton Page 5-9 165 Sr. 14.9 1.7 1.7 1.2 Pawnee, Okla.
G 22 Markel Brown 6-3 190 So. 8.6 5.2 1.9 1.4 Alexandria, La.
Page and Nash take most of the shots for the Cowboys. Two-thirds of Page's field goal attempts come from behind the 3-PT line, where he makes 36% of his 3-PT FGAs. Nash shoots just 38% from the field. Coach Haith referred to Page as "an assassin".
On the season, the Cowboys are being outrebounded by an average of 4.2 rebounds/game. They've also committed more turnovers than they have assists (0.81 A/T ratio, 13 turnovers/game). Add in the fact that Oklahoma State shoots just 41% from the field as a team, and just 32% from behind the arc, and the young Cowboys present a picture of offensive inefficiency.
On the other end of the court, Oklahoma State is pretty good defensively, although they're going to have problems matching up with Missouri's quickness. And, Missouri's speed in transition will present a serious challenge for the Cowboys, as well.
Gallagher-Iba Arena has long held one of the better home-court advantages in the conference, dating to way back. The fervor of the crowd, and their proximity to the court and bench area, will provide an additional real obstacle for Missouri. But, the Tigers are a seasoned bunch, and have shown the ability to handle playing on the road. This will be another opportunity for Missouri to exercise some toughness, and to develop as a team.
"They're just very impressive! Frank (Haith's) done a great job with this basketball team," said Oklahoma State Head Coach Travis Ford, talking about Missouri earlier this week. "They're obviously just a very veteran team. And, you can just see it on the court. You can see the experience just oozing off of them. It's impressive just to watch their team play! They can score at every position. They're very, very balanced."
Earlier this week, the Big 12 Conference tabbed Missouri's Ricardo Ratliffe as the conference's Player of the Week, following his career-high 27-point, 8-rebound performance in Saturday's 89-88 road win at Baylor. On the season, the Tigers' big man is averaging 14.6 points/game, and 6.8 rebounds/game. Ratliffe continues to make shots at a national-record pace, with his 77% FG%.
"Who is the second-leading scorer on the top two or three team in the country, and is shooting eighty-percent from the field," asked Coach Ford, rhetorically? "Who else has done that? Who's the second-leading scorer on a team that's ranked in the top three or four in America, and he's shooting eighty-percent from the field? It's unheard of!"
All-American candidate Marcus Denmon leads Missouri with 17.7 points/game. Denmon does much, much more than score. He's averaging 5.4 rebounds/game, 2.6 assists/game, and 1.5 steals/game. He has a 2.5 assist/turnover ratio, and is shooting 48% from the field, 40% from 3-PT land, and 92% from the free throw line for the Tigers. And, he's the rudder that keeps Missouri's ship on course. It's for good reason that opponents have taken to keying on Denmon in an attempt to limit his touches.
Kim English is averaging 14.4 points/game, and 4.5 rebounds/game for Missouri. He's leading the conference with his 51% 3-PT FG%.
Phil Pressey is scoring 10.1 points/game and garnering 3.4 rebounds/game. He's averaging a league-leading 6 assists/game, 2.3 steals/game, and carries a league-leading 2.7 assist/turnover ratio. Phil has really grown since the beginning of the season, especially in terms of being consistent on both ends of the floor. He's running the top offense in the Big 12 (83.4 points/game, and 51% FG%) with relative efficiency.
Matt Pressey has really improved his play, as well. Matt is scoring 8.2 points/game and grabbing 3.9 rebounds/game. With five double-digits scorers for Missouri, Matt Pressey's contribution may get overlooked. But, Matt is taking a primary defensive assignment each game, is taking very good care of the basketball (1.9 assists/game, 2.1 assist/turnover ratio), and has raised his shooting percentages (45% FG%, 41% 3-PT FG%, 75% FT%) by identifying which looks are high percentage shots for him.
Missouri Starters (18-1) - 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. 14.6 6.4 0.8 0.7 Hampton, Va.
G 12 Marcus Denmon 6-3 185 Sr. 17.7 5.4 2.6 1.5 Kansas City, Mo.
G 24 Kim English 6-6 200 Sr. 14.4 4.5 1.6 1.2 Baltimore, Md.
G 03 Matt Pressey 6-2 195 Sr. 8.2 3.9 2.0 1.0 Dallas, Texas
G 01 Phil Pressey 5-10 175 So. 10.1 3.4 6.0 2.3 Dallas, Texas
Mike Dixon comes off of the bench for Missouri, and scores 12.2 points/game. He's shooting 91% from the FT line, and he's doing a better job of being solid on both ends of the floor, as well as doing a better job of running the Missouri offense.
Steve Moore's play is critical to Missouri's success. He gives the Tigers a quality inside presence on both ends of the floor.
Earlier this week, Baylor Head Coach Scott Drew was asked what does Missouri do that makes them so effective at rebounding, despite their lack of height? Drew talked about how physical Missouri is, and he cited their physical maturity.
"Ratliffe and Moore are men," said coach Drew, talking about Missouri's big men. "Once they get inside position in front of the basket, you're not moving them. They're men!"
Missouri is the most efficient offensive team in the conference. They take very good care of the basketball, and have tremendous scoring balance.
"You've got to pick your poison," explained Coach Ford, talking about Missouri's offensive balance, and the difficulty in defending them. "They can score in so many different ways. It's a very tough match-up. They've got guys who can score! They can all score."
Earlier this week, Coach Haith talked about how his team is handling some success, and the attention that comes with it.
"We've got to be able to handle the praise in a way where we don't let it affect us in a negative way, in terms of how we perform and how we prepare," cautioned Coach Haith.
Coach Haith was asked about the risk of his team taking things for granted, and experiencing a lull?
"It will happen, if you're not prepared," replied Coach Haith, talking about the potential for Oklahoma State, or anyone, to upset Missouri. "We'd better get up for this (game)."
"We can't (allow ourselves to) become comfortable," said Coach Haith. "We've got good leadership, and we've got to lean on those guys."
"Missouri's experience really helps them," said Coach Ford, talking about the Tigers handling of their own success. "Missouri's got (experienced) guys who can handle what they're going through. They're a group of guys who have worked their way up through the ranks."
Missouri Oklahoma State
Record: 18-1 9-10
FGM: 547 422
FGA: 1074 1031
FG %: .509 .409
3pt FGM: 154 114
3pt FGA: 392 360
3FG %: .393 .317
FTM: 337 295
FTA: 437 413
FT % .771 .714
Points: 1585 1253
Per Game: 83.4 65.9
Reb./Gm 34.3 35.0
Steals 9.2 6.2
Assists: 16.6 10.6
Blocks: 3.2 4.8