GETTING INSIDE: Hold off, at least until a few outings in the Big 12, before continuing to bash Missouri's bigs. They not only held their own in one of the last nonconference tuneups, but actually outplayed Georgia's imposing frontcourt as the Tigers rolled 89-61 Jan. 2. Missouri's forwards combined for 42 points and contributed to a 29-27 rebounding edge despite facing a Georgia squad that outrebounded all but two of its first 11 opponents and featured a 6-10 threat in Trey Thompkins. "Personally, I think it was a challenge for our frontcourt," said forward Laurence Bowers. "Georgia was bigger than us. Coach stressed how they were powerful and tough and all that stuff, and we just wanted to show coach that we could do those things." The coach referenced, Mike Anderson, contends his frontliners are beginning to gain confidence after facing the tall order of replacing two key bookends, DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons, who led the Tigers to the Elite Eight last season. As long as Missouri can hold its own inside, on both ends of the floor, the Tigers figure to get enough production from the backcourt, both in half-court sets and on breakouts created off turnovers, to hang with most opponents. Bowers, in particular, was impressive against Georgia, scoring a career-best 23 points off the bench while converting 11 of 14 from the floor. Keith Ramsey is capable of disrupting opponents' rhythm with his interior defense, while Justin Safford is beginning to show more potential and Steve Moore offers bulk off the bench. Collectively the group probably won't ever match the production offered by Carroll and Lyons, but as long as they're solid on the defensive end and hold their own on the glass, the Tigers may have enough scoring options among their guards.
NOTES, QUOTES --The Jan. 2 matchup against Georgia offered Mike Anderson a glimpse of what he could have gotten into had he chosen to leave Missouri for the Bulldogs' coaching vacancy. According to reports, Anderson was offered a $2 million annual salary to take over at Georgia, but instead remained at Missouri, where he signed a seven-year deal worth $1.55 million annually. --The victory against Georgia pushed Missouri's homecourt win streak to 28 games, which ranks third in the nation. The Tigers stand 39-0 in nonconference home games under fourth-year coach Mike Anderson.
ON THE SPOT: Much of Missouri's offense is predicated on defense and the ability to pester opponents into turnovers. Through an 11-3 start, the Tigers forced opponents into double-digit turnovers in each game, including 20 or more in 11 games. It ranked among the nation's leaders with 12.9 steals on average.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "There was a lot of pressure on the bigs because everybody was telling us we can't do this, we can't do that." -- Missouri F Keith Ramsey. STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL SEASON RECAP: The nonconference portion of the Missouri schedule offers additional proof the Tigers are more apt to dictate the fast pace they like at home rather than on the road. Missouri was unbeaten in nonconference home games entering a final tune-up on Jan. 6 against Savannah State. Two of its three defeats came in true road games, and another was on a neutral site. Still, Missouri's worst loss was by only seven points. Getting the frontcourt to come close to matching opponents' production has been an ongoing challenge.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Keith Ramsey, F Justin Safford, G J.T. Tiller, G Zaire Taylor, G Kim English. Key Subs -- F Laurence Bowers, G Michael Dixon, G Marcus Denmon, C Steve Moore, G Miguel Paul.
GAME REVIEW: Missouri 94, Austin Peay 79. Missouri 91, UMKC 57. Missouri 89, Georgia 61. GAME PREVIEW: vs. Savannah State, Wednesday, Jan. 6. vs. Kansas State, Saturday, Jan. 9. at Texas Tech, Wednesday, Jan. 13. at Oklahoma, Saturday, Jan. 16. vs. Nebraska, Saturday, Jan. 23. IN FOCUS: One more breather exists against Savannah State before the Tigers try to stretch their home court win streak to 30 in a row in the Big 12 opener against Kansas State. The game features two of the more relentless teams in the conference, with Missouri attempting to dictate tempo with perimeter defense and Kansas State comfortable crashing the glass on both ends. A chance for the Tigers to prove themselves on the road exists with trips to Texas Tech and Oklahoma, especially with the Sooners struggling in nonconference play.
ROSTER REPORT: --F Laurence Bowers came off the bench to contribute career-highs in scoring with 17 points against UMKC and 23 against Georgia. He shot 84.2 percent over the two games, going 16 of 19, and shot at least 50 percent in 10 games of the Tigers' first 14 games. --G J.T. Tiller produced seven assists against Georgia, the third time this season he reached that mark as the Tigers topped 20 assists as a team for the sixth time. --G Kim English and G Michael Dixon swept the Big 12 weekly awards when they were named player and rookie of the week, respectively, on Dec. 28.