The third-ranked Missouri Tigers continue their quest for a Big 12 regular season crown, as they welcome the Oklahoma State Cowboys to Columbia this evening, for a conference showdown at Mizzou Arena.
Frank Haith's debut season in Columbia has been highly successful, as the Tigers have won 23 of their first 25 games. The team is currently boasting of a five-game win streak following an impressive 72-57 win over a strong Baylor squad on Saturday. The victory improved Missouri to 14-0 at home and 10-2 in the Big 12, trailing only Kansas (11-2) in the standings.
Travis Ford's Cowboys have struggled both in and out of conference. Oklahoma State is a game under .500 overall (12-13) and two games under that mark in conference play (5-7). OSU has dropped two of its last three games, including an 81-66 setback at Kansas this past weekend, falling to 2-5 in true road games this season.
Missouri holds a sizeable 75-41 advantage in the all-time series with Oklahoma State, but it is the Cowboys seeking the regular-season sweep after posting a 79-72 upset of the Tigers in Stillwater on January 25th.
The Cowboys dug themselves in a deep hole early on, trailing by as many as 29 points in the first half against Kansas. OSU cut the lead to 12 at one point, but settled for a 15-point setback in Lawrence. Four Cowboys reached double figures in the loss, led by Markel Brown's 21 points. Keiton Page was right behind with 19 points, while Le'Bryan Nash and Brian Williams chipped in with 11 points each. The Cowboys, who shot a mere .327 from the floor in the game, were abused on the boards, getting outrebounded 50-21.
Oklahoma State's -0.2 scoring margin is the primary reason for the sub-par campaign thus far. The team has struggled to find consistency at the offensive end of the floor, averaging just 66.7 ppg on a modest .415 shooting. Page provides the veteran leadership, as the senior guard paces the team with 14.4 ppg. The 6-7 Nash is just a freshman, but has shown flashes of brilliant play, netting 13.3 ppg. Brown is a 6-3 sophomore who rounds out the top scoring threats for OSU at 10.7 ppg.
There is no shortage of offensive firepower for Missouri this year, as the team ranks seventh in the nation in scoring (80.2 ppg), third in field-goal percentage (.500) and sixth in scoring margin (+16.2). Senior guard Marcus Denmon headlines the group, ranking second in the Big 12 in scoring at 18.0 ppg. Kim English adds 14.0 ppg to the perimeter assault and has combined with Denmon for 126 off the team's 200 three-pointers to date. Ricardo Ratliffe (14.0 ppg. 6.8 rpg) is the top performer in the frontcourt. Michael Dixon (12.4 ppg) is one of the best sixth-men in the country, while point guard Phil Pressey (9.7 ppg, 5.8 apg) can both score and distribute.
Missouri drilled a season-high 14 three-pointers in the rather easy win over Baylor this past weekend. Phil Pressey hit four three-pointers en route to a team-high 19 points. Denmon and Dixon both added 16 points in the win and matched Pressey's performance from long range. English added 12 points for Missouri in the win.