Columbia, MO – The Missouri Tigers' undefeated home record is in serious jeopardy, as the first-place Florida Gators pull into Mizzou Arena for an SEC showdown.
Since suffering an 80-69 loss at Arkansas on Feb. 5, Florida has responded well with three consecutive victories, its most recent triumph coming at Auburn in convincing fashion on Saturday afternoon, 83-52. The Gators continue to prove that they are one of the nation's elite teams, as they sit at 21-3 overall and 11-1 in the SEC, and the team currently holds the No. 5 spot in this week's AP Poll.
After spending most of the first three months of the season ranked in the Top-25, Missouri has fallen from that lofty perch by performing rather modestly in recent weeks, as it is just 6-5 in its last 11 games. The Tigers dropped a tough road game at Arkansas on Saturday to dip to 18-7 on the season (7-5 SEC), but they will surely be eager to return home for this matchup, as they have yet to lose in 14 contests at Mizzou Arena.
These two teams met for the first time ever on Jan. 19 in Gainesville, with Florida winning in convincing fashion, 83-52.
Florida ran out to a commanding 47-22 lead at intermission against Auburn over the weekend, which was more than enough to propel it to the easy 31-point victory. The Gators were fantastic at both ends of the floor, making better than 57 percent of their field goal attempts while holding the Tigers to a mere 35.2 percent. Mike Rosario led all scorers with 22 points, and Michael Frazier drained six of the teams 15 3-pointers to finish with 18 points. Kenny Boynton netted 16 points, Erik Murphy had 11, and Scottie Wilbekin tallied 10 assists and three steals. The well-rounded effort was nothing new for a Florida team that not only does shoots just shy of 50 percent from the field for 74.3 ppg, but has one of the elite defenses in the nation in yielding a scant 52.6 ppg. Boynton leads the way with 13.0 ppg, although he is having a rather modest season from the field overall (.411), as well as 3-point range (.342). Rosario scores 12.9 ppg, while Murphy shoots 50 percent from beyond the arc (52-of-104) for his 12.7 ppg. Patric Young is a force in the paint (10.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.8 bpg), and Wilbekin (9.4 ppg) has handed out 120 assists (5.5 pg) compared to only 46 turnovers.
After leading by four points with just 34 seconds left in its game versus Arkansas on Saturday, Missouri fell victim to a late rally by the Razorbacks as it was saddled with the heartbreaking two-point setback. The Tigers did not help themselves at the offensive end, as they shot less than 40 percent from the field (including 2-of-14 from 3-point range) and committed 17 turnovers. One player who had no problem filling up the basket was Keion Bell, who shot 9-of-11 from the floor and 7-of-8 from the foul line for 25 points before fouling out. Earnest Ross tallied 16 points and nine rebounds off the bench, and Alex Oriakhi corralled 11 rebounds. It wasn't the typical afternoon for Missouri, which drains 45 percent of its field goal attempts on the season for 76.5 ppg, second-most in the SEC. It also benefits from an outstanding +10.1 rebounding margin thanks to sound play from forwards Oriakhi (10.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.6 bpg), Ross (10.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Laurence Bowers (14.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.1 bpg). Jabari Brown is the top scoring threat with 14.6 ppg, and Phil Pressey nets 12.0 ppg and hands out 6.8 apg, but neither shoot greater than 40 percent from the field. Bell rounds out the deep scoring bunch with 11.7 ppg.