Villanova opened the season with four consecutive victories before falling in back-to-back games to Saint Louis and Santa Clara. Fortunately, the Wildcats were able to get back on track this past Saturday with a 73-65 triumph over Philadelphia rival Penn.
As for Missouri, it has yet to taste defeat this season, and it is fair to say that the team has yet to be challenged considering the fact that all seven victories have come by 15 or more points. Last Friday, the Tigers cruised to a 90-56 triumph over Northwestern State and they are 2-0 in neutral-site affairs to this point.
Missouri won the only previous meeting between these two programs back in 1985.
Maalik Wayns has been highly productive offensively for Villanova, as he is netting 18.7 ppg to go along with 31 assists. Mouphtaou Yarou checks in with 16.0 ppg on 56.8 percent field goal efficiency, and he is ripping down 8.4 rpg as well. Dominic Cheek rounds out a trio of double-digit scorers with 12.9 ppg, although his 37.3 percent field goal efficiency leaves much to be desired. The Wildcats are generating 76.7 ppg while surrendering 66.3 ppg to opponents. Against Penn on Saturday, Yarou dominated the paint to the tune of 21 points and 11 rebounds. Darrun Hilliard had 13 points in that affair while Wayns was limited to 11 points. The Wildcats led by 18 points at intermission after shooting 51.7 percent from the field in the first half, including 6- of-10 from three-point range. Unfortunately, 'Nova shot just 26.9 percent overall in the second half, including 1-of-13 from three-point range, to allow the Quakers to make things interesting.
It comes as no surprise that Marcus Denmon is averaging 20.3 ppg, as the standout performer was expected to be the go-to guy at the offensive end heading into this season. Denmon is shooting 53.3 percent from the floor and 88.9 percent from the foul line while grabbing 5.7 rpg. Kim English is second with 16.9 ppg on the strength of his stellar 56.8 percent accuracy from three- point range. As for Ricardo Ratliffe, he brings 13.9 ppg and 6.6 rpg to the front court, while Michael Dixon rounds out a foursome of double-digit scorers with 11.6 ppg off the bench. The Tigers are posting 86.3 ppg on 52.5 percent shooting while limiting opponents to 58.4 ppg on 39.2 percent field goal efficiency. In the 34-point romp over Northwestern State on Friday, Denmon exploded for 31 points in 28 minutes of action. Ratliffe added 22 points, while Dixon tallied 19 points. The Tigers shot 55.4 percent from the floor while limiting their overmatched opponents to 34.4 percent.