One of only four remaining undefeated teams in ranked Missouri Tigers try to keep the good times rolling tonight as they host the Oklahoma Sooners in Big 12 Conference action at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.
Missouri has had its share of ups and downs in recent weeks, from blowout wins over Kennesaw State and William & Mary to close calls versus Illinois (78-74) and, most recently, Old Dominion on Friday in a 75-68 final on the road. The date with the Monarchs was the first true road game of the season for the Tigers, although there were four neutral-site victories mixed in with their 13 total triumphs heading into this week.
Believe it or not, Oklahoma records show this game as being the first true road test of 2011-12 for the Sooners and like Missouri, the team has played more than a few games on neutral floors as well. However, unlike the Tigers, Oklahoma has dropped a pair of those outings against Saint Louis and Cincinnati. On New Year's Eve, OU caught a break in the schedule with a meeting versus Northwestern State, a clash that finished 83-63 and marked the sixth win in seven games for the Sooners.
With respect to the all-time series between these two schools on the hardwood, the Sooners are ahead by a count of 112-95, although the Tigers crushed Oklahoma in the most recent meeting last season, 84-61.
Oklahoma allowed Northwestern State to have four players score in double figures the last time out, but the good news was that the visitors turned the ball over 18 times and picked up only six points from reserves as they suffered the 20-point setback. Romero Osby and Steven Pledger both tallied 18 points for the Sooners, followed by Andrew Fitzgerald and Sam Grooms with 14 and 11 points, respectively, while Cameron Clark responded with nine rebounds. Pledger, a 48.4 percent shooter from behind the three-point line, is pacing the Sooners in scoring with his 18.8 ppg, while Fitzgerald (12.3 ppg) and Osby (10.8 ppg) also fall into the category of clutch offensive performers for the program. Osby is typically the key figure in the paint for Oklahoma, one who is responsible for 8.8 rpg, but as Clark showed last week, any number of players can take the lead in that area when the opportunity arises.
On the road in Virginia, the Tigers actually trailed by a basket at the break versus Old Dominion, but in the second half Missouri bounced back with both 51.9 percent shooting from the floor and 6-of-11 accuracy behind the three- point line in order to escape with the win. Marcus Denmon, responsible for 4- of-9 shooting beyond the arc, tallied 19 points for the visitors, followed by Kim English with 16 and Phil Pressey with 14 points and seven assists. Ricardo Ratliffe registered a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. For Ratliffe (14.2 ppg), the team's leading rebounder on the season with 7.2 per game, he has cleared double-digit boards only twice in 2011-12. Denmon accounts for a team-best 18.7 ppg as a 44.8 percent shooter from long range who is also comfortable hitting the glass (4.8 rpg) as well. Throw in English (15.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and this team has several players who are tough to match up against.