College Station, TX – The third-ranked Missouri Tigers season title, as they invade College Station this afternoon for a conference showdown with the Texas A&M Aggies at Reed Arena.
Frank Haith has had quite the debut season in Columbia, as his Tigers have won 24 of their first 26 games. At 11-2 in-conference, Missouri is tied with Kansas atop the league standings heading into the last two weeks of the regular season and has played extremely well down the stretch, entering this contest with a six-game win streak, kept alive by an 83-65 rout of Oklahoma State on Wednesday.
Billy Kennedy's first season in College Station has not been as successful, with the Aggies hovering just over the .500 mark at 13-12. Big 12 play has been particularly challenging, especially since the team has suffered injuries along the way. Texas A&M is just 4-9 in-conference, good for ninth place in the Big 12. Texas A&M was able to end a four-game skid on Tuesday with a 47-38 win over Texas Tech.
Despite holding a 12-10 series advantage against Texas A&M, Missouri hasn't won in College Station since 2001. The Tigers are seeking the regular-season sweep after posting a 70-51 win over the Aggies in Columbia on January 16th.
There is plenty of offensive firepower on Missouri's roster this year, as the team ranks seventh in the nation in scoring (80.3 ppg), third in field-goal percentage (.501) and sixth in scoring margin (+16.2). The team gives up some size with its four-guard set, but the formula has been dangerous nonetheless. Senior guard Marcus Denmon headlines the group, ranking second in the Big 12 in scoring at 17.9 ppg. Kim English adds 13.9 ppg, as he and Denmon have combined for 130 off the team's 207 three-pointers to date. Ricardo Ratliffe (14.0 ppg. 7.0 rpg) is the go-to-guy up front. Michael Dixon (12.5 ppg) is superb off the bench, while point guard Phil Pressey (9.8 ppg, 5.9 apg) can score himself and get others involved.
The Tigers shot a sterling 59.3 percent from the floor in the first half against Oklahoma State and went on to post an 18-point victory at home. Five players notched double figures in the balanced attack for Missouri, led by 17 points by Denmon. Dixon added 15 points, as did Ratliffe, who completed a double-double with 12 rebounds. English and Phil Pressey finished things off with 13 points each.
It certainly didn't end up the way it was drawn up, but the Aggies were able to finally get back in the win column with an ugly win over Texas Tech, that saw the two teams combine for just 85 points. Elston Turner was the only significant offensive contributor for A&M in the win, finishing with 16 points. Jordan Green and Khris Middleton added nine points apiece.
A strong defensive squad yielding just 59.8 ppg this year, A&M has had to deal with injuries to key personnel like Middleton and point guard Dash Harris. Middleton (11.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg) has finally made it back, but Harris (5.8 ppg, team-high 81 assists) has missed the last six games and is out indefinitely with a foot injury. Turner (14.6 ppg), David Loubeau (11.0 ppg), Ray Turner (9.2 ppg) and Middleton give the team options offensively.