On Saturday (1:00 P.M., ESPN), the #3 Missouri Tigers (24-2, 11-2) continue in their quest for a Big 12 , as they travel to College Station to take on the Texas A&M Aggies (13-12, 4-9).
Texas A&M is coming off of a 47-38 win over Texas Tech.
Missouri comes into this contest off of an 83-65 whipping of the Oklahoma State Cowboys that wasn't anywhere nearly as close as the final score.
That was the 101th victory of their Missouri careers for seniors Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Steve Moore, and Jarrett Sutton, which surpasses the previous four-year win mark established by the 1979-1983 team that was led by Jon Sundvold and Steve Stipanovich.
In these two teams' earlier meeting in Columbia, Missouri pulled away late, on the strength of 27 made free throws, to overcome an early deficit and pick up a 70-51win over the physical, defense-oriented Aggies.
In that one, Texas A&M held Missouri to 40% from the field, and 29% from behind the arc, but Missouri out-rebounded the taller A&M squad 38-26, and outscored the Aggies 22-16 in the paint, while scoring 20 points off of 15 Texas A&M turnovers.
Texas A&M Head Coach Billy Kennedy has had his share of injuries with which to deal this season. The Aggies' starting point guard, 6'1" senior Dash Harris, has missed the last 6 games, but he is targeting this Saturday as the date for his return to the line-up. Harris doesn't look to score, but in conference play, he's averaging 7.3 points/game, 3.9 rebounds/game, 4.0 assists/game, and 2.3 steals/game. He has a 2.0 assist/turnover ratio in conference games, but he's shooting just 36% from the FT line.
Another key player for the Aggies is 6'7" forward Khris Middleton, who has been hampered by injuries, and is just getting back into the line-up, as well. He's averaging 10.3 points/game and 5.5 rebounds game in conference play.
In conference games, the Aggies have three double-digit scorers, led by 6'5" junior guard Elston Turner, who is averaging 16.2 points/game, 3.5 rebounds/game, 2.3 assists/game, and is making 38% of his 3-PT attempts. Just over half of Elston Turner's field goal attempts come from behind the 3-PT line.
On the inside, the Aggies turn to 6'8" senior forward David Loubeau, who is averaging 10.4 points/game, and 4.3 rebounds/game in conference, and who is shooting 44% from the field in conference play.
Off of Coach Kennedy's bench is 6'9" junior forward Ray Turner, who is averaging 6.6 points, and 4.7 rebounds/game in conference.
A couple of young big men have each made starts for the Aggies, especially lately, including 6'9" red-shirt freshman forward Daniel Alexander, and 6'10" sophomore center Keith Davis, who has averaged 3.8 rebounds/game in conference play.
Texas A&M Starters (13-12) - 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. 11.0 4.6 0.6 0.5 Miami, Fla.
C 04 Keith Davis 6-10 231 So. 1.4 3.9 0.2 0.3 DeSoto, Texas
G 02 Naji Hibbert 6-5 192 Jr. 4.3 2.1 1.3 0.4 Baltimore, Md.
G 13 Jordan Green 6-4 181 Fr. 3.6 2.0 1.3 0.8 Flower Mound, Texas
G 31 Elston Turner 6-5 211 Jr. 14.6 3.6 2.2 0.9 Sacramento, Calif.
Texas A&M is a defensive-minded team that tends to play low-scoring games. They do a great job of playing solid defense, and of contesting 3-PT shots. During conference play, the Aggies have held opponents to 30% 3-PT FG%.
Texas A&M is scoring just 58. 2 points/game in conference, and they have a collective 0.7 assist/turnover ratio in conference games. The Aggies have really missed Harris, who is one of just two Texas A&M players, along with Naji Hibbert, who have more assists than turnovers in conference games.
The Aggies are among the league leaders in several defensive categories. Texas A&M has size, and athleticism, and they're very good defensively. But, the Aggies have trouble scoring, at least partly because they don't take very good care of the basketball.
The injuries have taken their toll on A&M, especially on the offensive end. Middleton, Loubeau, and Elston Turner can score the basketball, and the Aggies have been shooting well of late from behind the 3-PT line, so Missouri will have their hands full with the physical, athletic Aggies.
In conference, Missouri has four double-digit scorers, led by All-American candidate Marcus Denmon, who is averaging 17.2 points/game, 5.6 rebounds/game, 2.5 assists/game, and 1.4 steals/game in conference games.
He's joined by Ricardo Ratliffe, he of the 73% field goal percentage, who is averaging 13.8 points/game and 6.8 rebounds/game in conference games, Kim English, who is averaging 12.5 points/game and 3.6 rebounds/game in conference games, and Mike Dixon, who is averaging 12.5 points/game and 3.1 assists/game in conference games.
Point guard Phil Pressey is averaging 9.9 points/game, 3.9 rebounds/game, 5.8 assists/game, and 2.2 steals/game in conference games, so the Tigers are one point away from having five double-digit scorers in conference.
Missouri Starters (24-2) - Based on the most recent game
Pos. No. Name HT WT YR P/G R/G A/G S/G Hometown
F 10 Ricardo Ratli?e 6-8 240 Sr. 14.0 7.0 0.7 0.7 Hampton, Va.
G 12 Marcus Denmon 6-3 185 Sr. 17.9 5.2 2.3 1.5 Kansas City, Mo.
G 24 Kim English 6-6 200 Sr. 13.9 4.0 1.6 1.3 Baltimore, Md.
G 03 Matt Pressey 6-2 195 Sr. 6.9 3.3 1.7 0.9 Dallas, Texas
G 01 Phil Pressey 5-10 175 So. 9.8 3.5 5.9 2.2 Dallas, Texas
In conference play, Missouri is shooting 37% from behind the 3-PT line. Neither Ratliffe nor Steve Moore have attempted a 3-PT shot in conference play. Of the five Missouri players who have attempted 3-PT shots in conference, all five are making at least 35% of their 3-PT shots in conference games.
"With Ratliffe, a true post player, and with the (Missouri) guards shooting the ball as well as they are………………………………….. They're tough to guard," said Coach Kennedy. "You have to do a good job of trying to keep them in front of you, and really just hope they miss. When they shoot the ball like (they have lately), not many teams are going to be able to beat them."
Coach Kennedy went on to say that his team will need to be disciplined on the offensive end, and "make Missouri guard us", a reference to controlling the pace of the game by taking care of the basketball, and avoiding turnovers.
Missouri is playing their best basketball of the year, largely the result of having really picked it up defensively in the Tigers' last two games at home. Now, they'll have to take that defense on the road to an arena where Missouri hasn't won since 2001.
"This is a big game," said Missouri's Coach Haith, stating the obvious. "They got Middleton back. He was hurt. He played against Texas Tech. And, I imagine Dash Harris will be back for our game, too. It will be a huge, huge game for us."
Missouri Texas A&M
Record: 24-2 13-12
FGM: 727 575
FGA: 1450 1318
FG %: .501 .436
3pt FGM: 207 127
3pt FGA: 535 380
3FG %: .387 .334
FTM: 426 257
FTA: 555 402
FT % .768 .639
Points: 2087 1534
Per Game: 80.3 61.4
Reb./Gm 32.6 35.3
Steals 8.7 5.6
Assists: 16.0 12.0
Blocks: 2.9 2.4