The 10th-ranked Missouri Tigers attempt to keep their perfect record at Mizzou Arena alive on Tuesday night when they face the Alabama Crimson Tide in their first-ever conference matchup as a member of the SEC.
Alabama logged a perfect 6-0 mark in the month of November, but came crashing back to Earth with losses in five of its next six games. The Tide hope that January brings with it better prospects than December did, and they are off to a positive start to the new year after closing out a three-game homestand on Saturday with a convincing 65-45 win over Oakland.
Missouri has held its standing in the Top-25 all season long by winning 11 of its 13 matchups, with its most impressive wins coming against Stanford (78-70), VCU (68-65) and nationally-ranked Illinois (82-73). The Tigers experienced a setback on Dec. 28 with a tough 97-94 loss at UCLA, but they responded with a 66-64 home win over Bucknell on Saturday.
These newly-formed conference rivals have met just five times previously, with Alabama winning four of those. Missouri claimed the latest matchup during the 2001-02 season, 75-68.
The Crimson Tide were able to roll to a 20-point victory over Oakland the last time out thanks to arguably the squad's best all-around performance of the season. Not only did 'Bama shoot a lofty 52.1 percent from the floor, but it also held Oakland to a mere 27.1 percent. Leading the way for Alabama was Trevor Releford, who made 8-of-12 shots from the field on his way to 18 points, while Levi Randolph (15 points), Rodney Cooper (11 points) and Trevor Lacey (seven assists) were also impressive. The strong defensive effort has been a regular occurrence for the Tide, as it allows the third-fewest points per game in the SEC (58.8 ppg), but it has not been a terribly strong shooting team, netting a modest 65.5 ppg. The guard-heavy unit is anchored by Releford (15.6 ppg) and Lacey (12.5 ppg), each of whom shoots better than 42 percent from 3-point range and combines to hand out 6.4 apg. Cooper (12.3 ppg) rounds out the double-digits scorers, and while his 4.5 rpg may not stand out, it is enough to lead the team.
Missouri has seen much better days than it encountered against Bucknell over the weekend, as it actually trailed the Bison with less than four minutes to play, but it closed out the game strong and managed to hold on for the two- point home win. Phil Pressey was spectacular in the triumph, tallying 26 points and five assists. Laurence Bowers added 16 points and eight rebounds, and Alex Oriakhi had nine points and seven boards, but the rest of the team did not fare as well, combining to score just 15 points on 5-of-21 efficiency from the field. It was a rare off-night for the Tigers' offensive attack, as they typically score 78.5 ppg (fourth-best in the conference). Bowers has been strong in the frontcourt this season, hitting better than 57 percent of his field goal attempts for 16.8 ppg, while also adding 7.0 rpg. Pressey's field goal percentage leaves much to be desired (.361), but he still contributes 13.8 ppg and an SEC-best 7.2 apg. Jabari Brown has put up 11.8 ppg and 5.0 rpg in four contests since his Dec. 17 debut. Oriakhi chips in 10.2 ppg and 8.8 rpg, the latter of which helps Missouri log one of the bigger rebounding margins in the country (+13.0).