On Tuesday (6:00 P.M., ESPN), the Missouri Tigers (21-8, 10-6) play host to the Arkansas Razorbacks (18-11, 9-7) in SEC action. Arkansas comes into Mizzou Arena off of a 73-60 home win over Kentucky, while Missouri comes off of an 89-76 home win over LSU.
Last month, the Razorbacks defeated the Tigers 73-71 in Fayetteville.
Tuesday is not only Missouri’s Senior Night, but this also represents Arkansas Head Coach Mike Anderson’s first time returning to Mizzou Arena following the former Missouri Head Coach having slipped out the back door under cover of night nearly two years ago.
“This will be game two of this series this season,” said Coach Anderson. “We are both in the conference and in bordering states. We only have two regular season games left and everyone is jockeying for positions and trying to move up. It's a big game.”
Once the ball is tossed in the air, Coach Anderson will have his Hogs ready, and he’ll have nearly a dozen players ready to rotate in and out of the game. Playing a deep bench is one of Coach Anderson’s strategies, along with a break-neck fast pace, in trying to wear down his opponent.
Arkansas leads the conference, and ranks 3rd nationally, in turnover margin (+5.97). The Razorbacks rank 2nd in the SEC in steals (9.1 steals/game), assists (15.1 assists/game), and assist/turnover ratio (1.3 A/T ratio). The Razorbacks are third in the conference in blocked shots (4.9 blocked shots/game).
Arkansas is at or near the bottom of the conference in rebounding margin (-2.2 rebounds/game), three-point field goal percentage (30% 3-PT FG%), and three-point field goal percentage defense (35% 3-PT FG% defense).
Arkansas’ leading scorer is 6’3” 180-pound sophomore guard B.J. Young, who is averaging 15.2 points/game, 3.7 rebounds/game, and 3.5 assists/game. He takes a lot of shots, including quite a few threes, although he’s shooting just 21% from 3-PT range. Young is a very quick, explosive player who can get to the basket and finish around the rim.
Arkansas’ best player is 6’7” 240-pound junior forward Marshawn Powell, who does shoot a very good percentage, including 39% from 3-PT range. He’s averaging 14.9 points/game, 5.4 rebounds/game, 1.4 assists/game, 1.2 steals/game, and 1.1 blocked shots/game. Powell is strongly built, and he’s very athletic. He has soft hands, and he can really shoot the basketball! He is effective inside or outside, and he’s another very tough match-up.
“Powell and Young are two all-conference type players,” said Missouri Head Coach Frank Haith.
A player who has usually been in the starting lineup for Coach Anderson is 6’3” 205-pound junior guard Rickey Scott, who is averaging 4.5 points/game, and 1.6 assists/game. Scott is shooting 38% from 3-PT land, and he carries a 2.5 assist/turnover ratio. He’s a pretty efficient offensive player, except that he’s shooting just 50% from the FT line.
Two other players who have usually been in the starting lineup for Coach Anderson are 6’2’ 176-pound junior guard Mardracus Wade, who is averaging 6.5 points/game, 1.7 assists/game, and 1.7 steals/game, and 6’7” 225-pound junior forward Coty Clarke, who is averaging 7.5 points/game, and 5.2 rebounds/game for the Razorbacks. Clarke gives Arkansas some much-needed size, and he has put up impressive numbers of late. Along with Powell and Scott, he is one of Arkansas’ most efficient offensive players.
Coach Anderson is getting contributions from a number of players off of his bench. Against Missouri in Fayetteville, 5’10” 162-pound junior guard Kikko Haydar had a huge impact on the game as he came off of the bench to effectively harass Missouri’s Phil Pressey. With his aggressive defensive play, he was able to speed Pressey up, and he got inside Pressey’s head a little bit, at times luring the Tigers’ junior point guard into an individual competition. Haydar provides an offensive threat, as well, as he shoots 41% from 3-PT range.
“He’s an energy guy,” said Coach Anderson, talking about Haydar. “He’s a good ball player. He’s an intelligent guy, and he’s making shots. He’s a pest on defense. It just seems like when he’s out on the floor, a lot of good things take place, defensively and offensively. The floor is spaced out from an offensive standpoint. He can get the ball to the right people at the right time.”
Coach Anderson’s bench includes 6’5” 205-pound freshman guard Michael Qualls (4.0 points/game, 3.5 rebounds/game), 6’10” 245-pound sophomore forward Hunter Mickelson (5.8 points/game, 3.6 rebounds/game, 1.3 blocks/game), 6’5” 181-pound sophomore guard Rashad Madden (4.0 points/game, 2.3 rebounds/game 1.9 assists/game), 6’3” 190-pound freshman guard Anthlon Bell (4.2 points/game), 6’8” 204-pound freshman forward Jacorey Williams (3.7 points/game, 2.0 rebounds/game), and 6’2” 177-pound junior guard Fred Gulley.
Arkansas doesn’t have a lot of size. Powell has a strong inside game, and Mickelson is a developing player with good size, but the bulk of Coach Anderson’s rotation is made up of guards and small forwards.
At times, Coach Anderson will play small, and when he does, the Razorbacks will usually apply full-court pressure following made baskets. Arkansas will also play some zone defense, usually when they’re playing with a smaller line-up.
Overall, the Razorbacks are not a very good defensive team, but they gamble and extend on defense, and they do a lot of reaching, which is effective when they’re at home. They get their deflections, and they turn their opponents over (17.6 turnovers/game). On the other end, they take good care of the basketball while playing their up-tempo style, which allows them to score 74.1 points/game. That ranks 4th in the SEC. And, their scoring margin (+6.1) ranks 5th in the conference.
As Missouri fans know, when Coach Anderson's teams are playing well, and in front of the home crowd, it's an exciting brand of basketball. But this one is on the road at a very tough place to play, where Missouri is undefeated this season. Arkansas is 1-8 on the road this year, 1-7 on the road in conference.
Arkansas is a relatively young team that has been playing better lately, which primarily means that they’re playing better defense. And, they’ve had some games in which they’ve shot the ball better. It looks to me like Arkansas has kind of figured out that running more of their offense through Powell, Clarke, and Scott gives them a better chance to win. But overall, Arkansas has just gotten better throughout the season.
Mizzou Arena will be rocking, and both teams need this win to sustain any hope of a top-four conference regular-season finish.