Coach Rick Barnes and his Longhorns return home following a 71-76 road loss at Baylor.
"(We're going to play) a very good Texas team," said Missouri Head Coach Frank Haith following Missouri's 63-50 home win over Texas Tech on Saturday. "They're playing very well right now. And, I think they're playing with a lot more confidence than they played with when we played them here. So, we've got our work cut out for us. "
When Texas played Missouri in Columbia a couple of weeks ago, Coach Haith referred to Coach Barnes as "his best friend", and said that playing against Texas is "like playing against your big brother".
The Longhorns feature the conference's leading scorer, in 6'1" junior guard J'Covan Brown, who is scoring 19.7 points/game. Brown is also handing out 4 assist/game, and is shooting 42% from the field, and 85% from the FT line. Brown is making 38% of his 3-PT shots, and has a 1.8 assist/turnover ratio. Brown's the Longhorn's leading shot taker, with 160 more shot attempts this season than any of his teammates. As Coach Haith said, Brown has "really gotten better and better", and has become "the guy" for the Longhorns.
The Longhorns' 6'1" freshman guard Myck Kabongo is fourth in the conference in assists, at 5.5 assists/game. Kabongo is scoring 9.9 points/game, and has a 1.8 assist/turnover ratio. But, he is making just 64% of his free throws. Still, Kabongo is a talent, and is a rapidly improving young player. Coach Haith called Kabongo "one of the best point guards in the country".
Brown is a prolific scorer who can get his own shot. He's about as good as there is in the Big 12 at creating his own offense, but he's even better when he's playing alongside of Kabongo. More and more as the season has gone along, the Longhorns' offense revolves around Brown.
Another freshman guard, 6'4" Sheldon McClellan, is the Longhorns' second-leading scorer, at 11 points/game. He's making 45% of his field goal attempts, and 77% of his FTs, but just 31% of his 3-PT attempts.
Another pair of freshmen are making significant contributions for Coach Barnes' team, including 6'3" freshman guard Julien Lewis (8 points/game), and 6'7" freshman forward Jonathan Holmes (7.9 points/game). Holmes has been coming off of the bench. Lewis is the Longhorns' second-leading shot taker. He's making 35% of his field goal attempts, including 32% of his 3-PT field goal attempts. Holmes shoots a good percentage from the field (52% FG%), and from the FT line (76% FT%), and he's also grabbing 5.2 rebounds/game.
Texas plays with five freshmen among the Longhorns' eight-man rotation, including 6'7" freshman forward Jaylen Bond (4 points/game, 4.6 rebounds/game). A pair of senior bigs complete Coach Barnes' rotation, including 6'7" senior Alexis Wangmene (4.5 points/game, 4.7 rebounds/game), and 6'10" senior Clint Chapman (7 points/game, 5.5 rebounds/game).
Texas Starters (13-8) - Based on the most recent game
Pos. No. Name HT WT YR P/G R/G A/G S/G Hometown
F 20 Alexis Wangmene 6-7 241 Sr. 4.5 4.7 0.4 0.6 Maroua, Cameroon
F 53 Clint Chapman 6-10 245 Sr. 7.0 5.5 0.4 0.3 Canby, Ore.
G 00 Julien Lewis 6-3 190 Fr. 8.0 3.9 0.8 1.2 Galveston, Texas
G 12 Myck Kabongo 6-1 169 Fr. 9.9 3.1 5.5 1.2 Toronto, Ontario
G 14 J'Covan Brown 6-1 197 Jr. 19.7 3.4 4.0 1.3 Port Arthur, Texas
This is a huge game for Missouri, in terms of contending for the conference title. A win in Austin would place the Tigers squarely in the middle of the conference race. It won't be easy. The young Longhorns have been improving, and Texas will play much better at home.
Despite their impressive record and ranking, Missouri hasn't been playing as well as many would like. The Tigers haven't been very good defensively, and their leading scorer, Marcus Denmon, who is averaging 17.8 points/game, has been struggling to make shots. But, Denmon does everything else very well, and he's been getting to the free-throw line and making free throws.
On Saturday, Coach Haith said that he's "not worried" about Denmon's shot, explaining that Denmon took "good shots", rebounded the basketball well, and played good defense. Denmon is coming up with 5.3 rebounds/game, and 1.6 steals/game.
Ricardo Ratliffe and Kim English having both been scoring the basketball. Ratliffe continues to lead the country in field goal percentage at 75% FG%. He's scoring 14.8 points/game, and grabbing 6.9 rebounds/game. English is scoring 14.4 points/game and pulling down 4.3 rebounds/game.
Phil Pressey leads the league in steals (2.4 steals/game) and assists (6.1 assists/game). He's scoring just under 10 points/game (9.7).
Missouri Starters (19-2) - Based on the most recent game
Pos. No. Name HT WT YR P/G R/G A/G S/G Hometown
F 10 Ricardo Ratli?e 6-8 240 Sr. 14.8 6.9 0.7 0.9 Hampton, Va.
G 12 Marcus Denmon 6-3 185 Sr. 17.8 5.3 2.5 1.6 Kansas City, Mo.
G 24 Kim English 6-6 200 Sr. 14.4 4.3 1.5 1.2 Baltimore, Md.
G 03 Matt Pressey 6-2 195 Sr. 7.9 3.8 1.9 1.0 Dallas, Texas
G 01 Phil Pressey 5-10 175 So. 9.7 3.5 6.1 2.4 Dallas, Texas
Overall, Missouri leads the Big 12 in nine different statistical categories, including scoring offense (81.9 points/game), scoring margin (+18.2), free throw percentage (78%), field goal percentage (50%), assists (16.1 assists/game), steals (9.4 steals/game), turnover margin (+5.5), assist-turnover ratio (1.54), and rebounding defense (31.1).
If Missouri is going to win in Austin, the Tigers will have to play better defensively. The Tigers need to place a damper on Brown, and Phil Pressey is going to have to slow down Kabongo. Missouri will need to get back to rebounding the basketball, as well.
This is an opportunity for the Tigers. But, it's going to require more toughness than the Tigers have shown the last couple of games, the kind of toughness they displayed in Waco, just over a week ago. And, it will be a big help if Denmon is making more shots.
Record: 19-2 13-8
FGM: 592 531
FGA: 1187 1201
FG %: .499 .442
3pt FGM: 164 133
3pt FGA: 432 399
3FG %: .380 .333
FTM: 372 368
FTA: 478 510
FT % .778 .722
Points: 1720 1563
Per Game: 81.9 74.4
Reb./Gm 33.8 37.4
Steals 9.4 7.0
Assists: 16.1 13.3
Blocks: 3.0 3.8