Oxford, MS – The 10th-ranked Missouri Tigers continue their run through their first season in the SEC, as they take on the Ole Miss Rebels in a conference showdown in Oxford in Saturday.
Frank Haith's Tigers opened their inaugural SEC campaign with an 84-68 blasting of Alabama in Columbia on Tuesday. The win was the second straight and eight in the last nine games and moved Missouri to an impressive 12-2 on the year.
Andy Kennedy's Rebels are also sporting an impressive 12-2 mark thus far. Ole Miss comes into this contest with a four-game win streak in tow, after dispatching Tennessee in Knoxville in its conference opener on Wednesday, 92-74.
This is actually the first time these two programs are meeting on the hardwood. The two programs will square off again on Feb. 9 in Columbia.
Five Tigers scored in double figures in Missouri's SEC debut against Alabama. Jabari Brown led the way with 22 points, thanks in large part to five 3- pointers. Earnest Ross poured in 19 points off the bench, while Alex Oriakhi recorded a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Laurence Bowers also posted 16 points, while Phil Pressey matched Oriakhi's feat with a double- double of his own, finishing with 11 points and 13 assists. The big win came at a cost however, as Bowers suffered a sprained knee and is listed out for the next couple of games.
An offensive team first and foremost, Missouri likes to get out and run. The team is averaging a hefty 78.9 ppg this year, doing so on a healthy .457 shooting. Still, losing Bowers, even if for just a few games, is a big blow. The senior forward is converting .520 from the floor, leads Missouri in scoring (16.8 ppg) and ranks second in rebounding (6.9 rpg). That will leave Oriakhi (10.6 ppg, 8.9 rpg) with more of the burden down low. The 6-5 Ross (10.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg) could slip into the rotation and become even more of a factor with Bowers sidelined. The team has a number of options along the perimeter with Brown (13.8 ppg), Pressey (13.6 ppg) and Keion Bell (8.0 ppg) all capable of contributing offensively. Pressey's first charge however, is to distribute, as he leads the SEC with 7.6 apg.
Ole Miss started its SEC slate with a win for the first time since the 2005-06 season and won for just the second time ever at Thompson-Boling Arena, with its rout of the Volunteers. Marshall Henderson went off for a career-high 32 points in the win. Murphy Holloway recorded a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, as did Reginald Buckner (13 pts, 15 rebs), while Jarvis Summers added to the offensive onslaught with 16 points of his own. Their aggressive Rebels certainly took advantage at the free-throw line in the game, holding a huge 38-17 edge in points from the charity stripe.
The Rebels are a dangerous offensive squad as well, ranking fifth nationally with 83.7 ppg. The gaudy numbers have given the team a +19.0 scoring margin as well, good for 10th nationally. Despite shooting under 40 percent from the floor, Henderson leads the SEC in scoring at 19.1 ppg. He is also among the national leaders in 3-pointer made, ranking second at four treys per game. Holloway (15.7 ppg, 11.0 rpg) and Buckner (10.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg) provide the perfect balance in the frontcourt. Nick Williams rounds out the top scorers on the team at 10.7 ppg.