The Cowboys are coming in off of a 66-81 loss at Kansas.
Missouri remains in contention for a Big 12 title, after sweeping the season series with Baylor, by taking care of the Bears 72-57 on Saturday.
That was the 100th victory of their Missouri careers for seniors Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Steve Moore, and Jarrett Sutton. That equals the four-year win mark established by the 1979-1983 team that was led by Jon Sundvold and Steve Stipanovich.
Denmon scored 16 points against Baylor, to move ahead of Sundvold into 10th place on Missouri's all-time career scoring list. Denmon has scored 1605 points in his Missouri career, and appears likely to move up that list even more before he closes out his Missouri career.
"Missouri is one of the best teams in the country, without question," said Baylor Head Coach Scott Drew. "They're playing extremely well, I think as well as they have played all year long right now."
A couple of weeks ago in Stillwater, Oklahoma State handed Missouri one of their two defeats this season, when 6'7" freshman forward Le'Bryan Nash lit it up from the outside late in that contest to carry the Cowboys to a 79-72 victory over the Tigers.
Two-thirds of the way through the conference season, Nash and 5'9" senior guard Keiton Page are each scoring 15.1 points/game in conference games. Nash is Oklahoma State's best player, and he's also averaging 4.9 rebounds/game in conference. Nash is a rapidly-improving superior talent. And, he's a tough match-up.
"Le'Bryan Nash is versatile," said Missouri's Mike Dixon. "If you put a big on him, he'll bring them out to the perimeter. And if you put a smaller guy on him, he'll try to post you up."
Oklahoma State Head Coach Travis Ford has some serious size up front, with 6'8" red-shirt freshman forward Michael Cobbins (6.3 points/game, 7.2 rebounds/game in conference games), and a pair of seven-footers, in junior center Phillip Jurick (4.3 rebounds/game in conference games), and freshman Marek Soucek. Jurick is working his way back into the line-up following a mid-season injury.
In the back court, Coach Ford relies on 6'3" sophomore guard Markel Brown (13.5 points/game, 4.6 rebounds/game in conference games), and 6'5" red-shirt freshman Brian Williams (11.6 points/game, 3.9 rebounds/game in conference games). And off of the bench, 6'0" freshman guard Cezar Guerrero, and 6'3" freshman guard Christian Sager have each seen action in conference games.
Missouri Head Coach Frank Haith talked about the Oklahoma State guards.
"Oklahoma State has athletic guards," said Coach Haith. "Those guys will drive the ball, you know, Williams, and Brown. They're very athletic. They're quick. And, Page is another feisty player."
Lately in conference play, Coach Ford has shortened his rotation, and has primarily gone to a smaller line-up. Of late, the Cowboys' starting line-up has been logging heavy minutes.
Oklahoma State Starters (12-13) - 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. 13.3 4.9 1.5 0.6 Dallas, Texas
F 20 Michael Cobbins 6-8 220 RFr. 5.1 5.4 0.6 0.8 Amarillo, Texas
G 04 Brian Williams 6-5 205 RFr. 8.1 3.2 0.5 0.5 Baton Rouge, La.
G 12 Keiton Page 5-9 165 Sr. 14.4 1.8 2.3 1.3 Pawnee, Okla.
G 22 Markel Brown 6-3 190 So. 10.7 5.1 2.0 1.4 Alexandria, La.
Page and Nash take most of the shots for the Cowboys. Almost two-thirds of Page's field goal attempts come from behind the 3-PT line, where he's made 32% of his 3-PT FGAs during conference play. Nash is shooting 43% from the field in conference play.
In conference games, the Cowboys are being outrebounded by an average of 9.1 rebounds/game. They've also committed more turnovers than they have assists (0.9 A/T ratio, 12 turnovers/game in conference games). Add in the fact that Oklahoma State shoots just 42% from the field as a team in conference play, and just 28% from behind the arc, and the young Cowboys present a picture of a team that at times struggles on the offensive end.
Statistically, Oklahoma State is very similar in conference to what they were out of conference. Considering that the Cowboys' non-conference schedule was nowhere nearly as difficult as their Big 12 schedule, I think that the statistics support what I've seen from Oklahoma State, in that they're a rapidly improving team. That makes sense too, with their core of very talented young players. Still, the Cowboys have won exactly one conference road game, at winless Texas Tech.
In conference games, Marcus Denmon leads Missouri, and is fourth in the Big 12, in scoring, with 17.2 points/game. In conference games, Denmon is collecting 5.8 rebounds/game, 2.6 assists/game, and 1.4 steals/game. In conference games, Denmon has been the focus of opposing defenses, yet he's shooting 41% from the field, 35% from 3-PT land, and 90% from the FT line. He carries a 1.4 assist/turnover ratio in Big 12 action.
Denmon is already established as one of the greats in Missouri basketball history. As Missouri heads down the stretch in this remarkable season, watch Marcus Denmon. For all of the very impressive numbers that Denmon is putting up, know that he is a player whose value to his team far exceeds his numbers. You're seeing one of the greatest players to ever wear the Missouri uniform.
In conference games, Ricardo Ratliffe has scored 13.8 points/game and pulled down 6.3 rebounds/game, while shooting 71% from the field, and 74% from the FT line. Opposing defenses are game-planning for, and paying a lot of attention to, Ratliffe. He's often been surrounded in the post.
Baylor Coach Scott Drew admitted that his team's defensive strategy against Missouri was to pack it in the paint, and try to take Ratliffe away, and to try to take the drive to the basket away from Missouri's guards. He said that with Missouri, you have to "pick your poison", and that if the Tigers are making outside shots, there's really nothing that you can do to stop them.
"When Missouri is shooting well, they're really tough to guard," explained Coach Drew, who referred to Missouri as a "potential national champ". "It's really difficult to match up with them."
Throughout the season, Kim English has continued to improve. His senior year transformation into a team-first player has become even more evident in conference play, where like fellow senior Steve Moore, his statistical line doesn't demonstrate his true value to the team. In conference, English is scoring 12.4 points/game, and garnering 3.8 rebounds/game, 1.4 assists/game, and 1.3 steals/game. In conference, English is shooting 47% from the field, and 76% from the FT line. Over half of his field-goal attempts are from behind the arc, where he has a 37% 3-PT FG%. In addition, English leads Missouri in taking charges.
Phil Pressey is coming off of his best game as a Missouri Tiger. His defense against Baylor, and the job that he did on Pierre Jackson, was the best that I've seen from Phil Pressey. I believe that playing at such a high level defensively, and playing with a high-level defensive mindset, contributes to the recognition of high-percentage shots, and lends confidence to the ability to make those shots. I think that was evident on Saturday with Phil Pressey. It will be very interesting to see if he continues in that mind-set.
"Phil Pressey was outstanding! He was outstanding! We challenged him," explained Coach Haith, talking about Phil Pressey's defense against Baylor. "We challenged Phil to get back to guarding the ball the way he's capable of. Phil can be just a terror on the ball. He was great! I know he's the steals leader, or one of the steals leaders, in the Big 12. But those steals will happen if you just stay solid and keep guys in front of you. And, we want all of our guards to do that, a much better job of that, so the ball doesn't get on our big people. When the game is stretched out, pushed away from the basket, it's to our advantage. But when it's closer to the rim, it's to our disadvantage. We did a nice job (against Baylor) at the front line of our defense, and Phil spear-headed that with how he was able to contain and guard Pierre Jackson."
Missouri Starters (23-2) - Based on the most recent game
Pos. No. Name HT WT YR P/G R/G A/G S/G Hometown
F 10 Ricardo Ratliffe 6-8 240 Sr. 14.0 6.8 0.7 0.7 Hampton, Va.
G 12 Marcus Denmon 6-3 185 Sr. 18.0 5.3 2.4 1.5 Kansas City, Mo.
G 24 Kim English 6-6 200 Sr. 14.0 4.1 1.6 1.2 Baltimore, Md.
G 03 Matt Pressey 6-2 195 Sr. 7.1 3.3 1.7 1.0 Dallas, Texas
G 01 Phil Pressey 5-10 175 So. 9.7 3.4 5.8 2.3 Dallas, Texas
Of course, Phil Pressey scores 9.7 points/game in conference, and he leads the Tigers with 5.7 assists/game, and 2.3 steals/game. But when he plays the way he did against Baylor, statistics don't begin to demonstrate Phil Pressey's value to Missouri. If Phil Pressey and Mike Dixon continue to play the way they did against Baylor, this Missouri team can be very, very special.
Dixon is scoring 12.3 points/game and handing out 3.1 assists/game in conference play. In conference, he's making 51% of his field goal attempts, including 43% from behind the arc, and he's making 84% of his FTs. He doesn't start for Missouri, but Coach Haith wants him on the floor at the end of games. Dixon has really grown as a player during the conference season.
"No coach that faces Missouri thinks of Dixon as a sixth man," said Coach Drew. "He's a starter, and a potential all-conference player."
Coach Ford talked about trying to defend Missouri.
"Ricardo Ratliffe is the perfect complement to their basketball team," explained Coach Ford. "When you've got shooters like Missouri has on the perimeter, maybe the best shooters in the country, as far as four or five guys who are just dead-eye shooters, then you've got a low-post player who can just score, score, score, that's a pretty impressive combination……………………………………. Ratliffe's obviously very difficult to guard one-on-one. Then, if you try to double-team him in the post, they've got four perimeter shooters. You kind of pick your poison. You try to mix it up a little bit………………………………….. There's just not one way to stop or slow down Missouri. That's what makes them very, very good."
Coach Haith talked about his vision for his team.
"I think we can get better," explained Coach Haith. "I think we can get better still. There's still areas where we can get better. I hope (the Baylor game) is something that we can build upon…………………………………. Our ability to be able to guard the ball (like that) is key, because the front line of our defense is so important to our success……………………………………….. If we hang our hat on (playing defense and a defensive mentality), because we're pretty good offensively, we could really take another step as a team."
Missouri Oklahoma State
Record: 23-2 12-13
FGM: 695 558
FGA: 1389 1344
FG %: .500 .415
3pt FGM: 200 146
3pt FGA: 517 474
3FG %: .387 .308
FTM: 414 406
FTA: 540 538
FT % .767 .755
Points: 2004 1668
Per Game: 80.2 66.7
Reb./Gm 32.4 33.4
Steals 8.8 6.4
Assists: 16.0 10.6
Blocks: 3.0 4.6