It’s a non-conference matchup when a pair of Power Five conferences lock up on the hardwood in the Mountaineer State. The Missouri Tigers are on the road as they tangle with the #14 West Virginia Mountaineers in the Big 12/SEC Challenge Saturday afternoon. Missouri comes in off a 66-64 defeat at home by Texas A&M Tuesday night in their last game. West Virginia crushed Texas 97-59 at home in their previous contest Monday night. The teams split four previous meetings with the Mountaineers picking up an 83-79 win on a neutral floor in Orlando on November 26, 2017.
Missouri Tigers Trying to Right the ShipMissouri has been spiraling down of late for coach Cuonzo Martin and they look to get back on track here. The Tigers enter this game 9-9 overall and 1-5 in the SEC, so there has been a downward slide since conference play began. Missouri started the year winning four of their first five and then dropped three straight to fall back to the .500 mark. The Tigers reeled off four straight wins to close 2019, including a neutral floor win over Illinois that stands as their top win so far this season. Since then, it’s been downhill as Missouri has dropped five of six with four of those losses coming by double figures.
The Tigers are 291st in the nation in scoring offense with 67.1 points per game on the year. Missouri is 281st in rebounding by collecting 34.8 boards a night while the team is 331st by dishing out 11.9 assists per contest. The Tigers are 28th in the nation in scoring defense by allowing only 61.6 points per game. Dru Smith leads Missouri with 12.1 points plus 4.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game on the season. Jeremiah Tilmon chips in nine points plus 4.3 boards a night while Xavier Pinson contributes 7.3 points and 2.7 assists per game. Mark Smith (11.8 points, 4.6 rebounds), Mitchell Smith, Kobe Brown, Torrence Watson, Javon Pickett and Reed Nikko are all important pieces for Missouri. The Tigers are shooting 41.8 percent from the field as a team this season. Missouri knocks down an average of 7.2 triples a night while shooting only 30.7 percent from beyond the arc. The Tigers are excellent at the charity stripe, cashing in 77.4 percent of their attempts this season. Tilmon is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his foot, which he suffered against Kentucky on January 4.
The numbers from KenPom show Missouri is effective on both ends of the floor but they haven’t been able to string it together in conference play. Missouri is 107th in offensive efficiency and 76th in defensive efficiency this season. The Tigers are 42nd in effective field goal percentage defense at 45.5 percent and rank 31st in turnover percentage created at 22.9 percent this season. Missouri is 47th in three-point field goal percentage (30 percent) and 73rd in two-point field goal percentage (45.9 percent) on the year. The Tigers can be deadly at the charity stripe as they are 16th in the country in free throw percentage. Missouri plays a slower than average pace as they are 271st in tempo with an average of 66.4 possessions per game.
West Virginia Mountaineers Look to Cruise to VictoryWest Virginia’s press defense is back in full force and wreaking havoc on opposing teams this season. Coach Bob Huggins sees his team roll into this game with a 15-3 record overall and a 4-2 mark in the Big 12. West Virginia opened the year with seven straight wins, including triumphs over Akron and Rhode Island at home in addition to Wichita State and Northern Iowa on a neutral floor. After a two-point road loss to St. John’s, the Mountaineers won four straight, including a neutral floor win over Ohio State. They come in winners of four of their last six with their two defeats coming on the road to Kansas and Kansas State.
The Mountaineers average 73.2 points per game on the offensive end of the floor, putting them 131st in the nation in scoring offense this season. West Virginia pulls down an average of 41.9 rebounds per contest and dishes out 13.1 assists a night. The Mountaineers are an elite team defensively as they are 16th in scoring defense by allowing 60.6 points per contest. Oscar Tshiebwe leads the team with 11.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game on the year. Derek Culver (10.7 points, 9.2 rebounds) and Miles McBride (10.1 points) also average in double figures this season. Jermaine Haley, Emmitt Matthews Jr. Sean McNeil, Chase Harler, Brandon Knapper, Taz Sherman and Jordan McCabe are all reliable pieces in the rotation. West Virginia shoots 44 percent from the field as a team this season. The Mountaineers shoot 30.7 percent from beyond the arc and knock down 5.5 triples per game. West Virginia is subpar at the free throw line as they shoot 64 percent as a team this season at the stripe.
KenPom’s numbers show how dangerous of a team West Virginia is this season. The Mountaineers are 46th in offensive efficiency and third in the nation in defensive efficiency this season. West Virginia is #1 in the country in effective field goal percentage defense at 41.1 percent while they stand second in three-point field goal percentage defense (25.6 percent) this season. In addition, the Mountaineers are 15th in two-point field goal percentage defense (42.8 percent), 72nd in block percentage (11.3 percent) and 50th in steal percentage (11.2 percent) on the year. West Virginia crashes the glass with the best of them, ranking third in offensive rebound percentage at 39.9 percent. The Mountaineers play a fast pace as they are 60th in tempo with 70.8 possessions per game.
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