Norman, OK (SportsNetwork.com) - Old conference rivals will square off in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Friday night, as the 22nd-ranked Oklahoma Sooners welcome the Missouri Tigers to the Lloyd Noble Center.
Missouri has endured an up-and-down start to the season at 4-3. Since losing its first two games of the Maui Invitational, the Tigers have surged above .500 with back-to-back wins over Chaminade (74-60) and Southeast Missouri State (65-61). This marks their first true road game of the season, and they were only 3-7 away from home a season ago.
While Missouri struggled in its holiday tournament, the Sooners shined in theirs. They advanced to the championship game of a loaded Battle 4 Atlantis by downing UCLA (75-65) and Butler (59-46) in the early rounds only to lose in the championship game to No. 2 Wisconsin, 69-56. Despite a loss in its most recent game, Oklahoma's success was still enough to get it re-introduced to the polls at No. 22.
In the storied all-time series, Oklahoma has a 112-97 advantage over Missouri, although the Tigers have won the last three meetings, most recently in February of 2012, 71-68.
The Tigers had some difficulty with their intrastate rival earlier in the week, as they trailed by six at the half, but they used a second-half surge to capture the four-point victory. They shot a stellar 50 percent from the field and outscored SEMO from both 3-point range (24-18) and the foul line (13-5). Johnathan Williams led the way with a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds. Montaque Gill-Caeser and Keith Shamburger netted 15 and 11 points, respectively, with the duo combining to shoot 5-of-8 from beyond the arc.
Missouri has been a model of mediocrity this season, as it shoots 42.3 percent from the field while scoring nearly the same amount of points (64.0 ppg) as it allows (64.1 ppg). It is also hindered by a poor free-throw percentage (.649) and a -2.1 turnover margin. Gill-Caeser is the team's top scorer with 13.9 ppg but does so on less than 39 percent field-goal shooting. Williams is an anchor in the frontcourt with 10.4 ppg and 5.3 rpg.
The Sooners had a great challenge in trying to tackle the nation's No. 2 team in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game, but after battling through four ties and 11 lead changes they ultimately fell short in the 13-point loss. They were outshot from the field by Wisconsin, 43.5 percent to 37 percent, and were done in by losing the turnover battle by a wide 21-11 margin. Dinjiyl Walker came off the bench to score 10 points. Isaiah Cousins and Buddy Hield netted nine points apiece but shot a combined 5-of-22 from the field.
On the season, Oklahoma has not impressed with its field goal percentage (.398), but thanks to a great free-throw percentage (.758) and a +3.8 rebounding margin, it still puts up a solid 70.2 ppg. Its scoring numbers are more than enough to support a stout defense that allows only 61.0 ppg on 35.2 percent shooting. Hield makes less than 37 percent of his field goal attempts but generates enough volume to score 16.7 ppg. Cousins brings 11.7 ppg to the table and Ryan Spangler is a nightly double-double threat with 8.7 ppg and 9.5 rpg.