The Horns (11-3, 1-0) open their home conference schedule tonight at 7 PM with the Missouri Tigers (11-3, 0-1). The game will be televised in Texas by Fox Sports SW. Texas has beaten Missouri eight straight times and enter this one on a three game winning streak. On the other hand, the Tigers haven't won a road / neutral contest in their last ten tries and just dropped their conference opener at home to Iowa State on a last second tip-in. The Horns took care of the Tigers, 66-53, last season in Columbia.
First year coach, Mike Anderson, guided the Tigers to nine straight home wins to begin the season. Missouri followed their solid start with a road loss at Purdue and with another loss to rival Illinois in St. Louis. Then, the Tigers briefly gathered themselves with home victories over Southern and Mississippi State before losing their conference opener to the Cyclones last Saturday night.
Even though the Tigers haven't played top notch opponents, Tigers fans should be encouraged by the eleven wins (including two over top 50 teams, Arkansas and Davidson) and by the fact that Quin Snyder is no longer on the bench. Snyder was fired last February after his perennially underachieving team started 10-11. Former Aggie head coach, Melvin Watkins coached the Tigers through the rest of the season, and Mike Anderson was hired in the off-season.
Anderson was an Arkansas assistant for eight seasons and a student of Nolan Richardson's "Forty Minutes of Hell" brand of basketball. Anderson has already implemented the up tempo style that is predicated on defensive pressure in Columbia.
The Tigers are led by newcomer, Stefhon Hannah (6'1" 175), who leads the team in points, minutes, assists, and steals. Hannah's 3.7 steals per game -leads the nation- and his 4.9 assists per game are good for fourth in the conference. Also starting in the backcourt and making his 24th consecutive start will be 6'2" Jason Horton. Matt Lawrence (6'7" 210) will start at forward and is a deadly three point shooter. He leads the Big 12 at 53% from beyond the arc. Austin LBJ product, Marshall Brown (6'6" 220), and Leo Lyons (6'9" 225) will start at the post positions.
The Tigers are undersized, yet quick. Mike Anderson substitutes frequently to keep fresh bodies on the floor that are able to constantly apply full court pressure. Nine different players average over 13 minutes per game.
Missouri By the Numbers
The Tigers play a similar style to Tennessee but with less talent and more full court pressure. Like the Vols, their scoring is predicated on turnovers and three point shooting. The Tigers lead the Big 12 and are ranked second nationally in steals per game with over 12 swipes. They force over 22 turnovers per game and lead the Big 12 in turnover margin. Missouri also shoots the three pointer well at over 41% as a team and average about eight made threes per game.
On the other hand, Missouri is not a great rebounding team and only an average defensive team when they are not forcing turnovers. They are only +1 in rebounding margin. The Tigers are also dead last in free throw percentage in the Big 12.
Prediction / Horns' Objectives
Missouri is not a supremely talented team, but they already handedly beat a good Arkansas team early in the season. Texas should have beaten Tennessee in Knoxville and shouldn't have too much trouble with a less skilled version of the same team in Austin.
The Horns must take care of the basketball, attack the Missouri pressure, and force the Tigers to pay for gambling on defense in the full court. The Horns should also be able to control the glass on both ends and score easy second chance buckets while limiting seconds looks by the Tigers. Last, Texas may have to play more man to man defense against the Tigers. Hannah, Horton, and Lawrence will no have trouble shooting over our 2-3 zone with Augustin and Abrams at the top. When Texas plays man to man, they must do a better job of stopping dribble penetration as well.
The Horns looked excellent in the second half against Colorado and have already shown great strides this season. Texas will likely drop a game this season that they should win but it won't be this one. DJ Augustin has been too careful with ball, Kevin Durant too dominant a scorer, and Damion James too aggressive on the glass. If Texas stays out of foul trouble and protects the basketball, it's hard to see them losing this one at home. Durant continues his All American campaign with 28 points and 13 rebounds as the Horns win going away, 87-72.