The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Frank Erwin Center (16,734) -- Austin, Texas. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Missouri 13-0, Texas 11-1. Away Record: Missouri 1-2, Texas 4-1. Neutral Record: Missouri 3-1, Texas 2-1. Conference Record: Missouri 3-2, Texas 5-0. Series Record: Texas leads, 11-10.
GAME NOTES: Top-25 foes collide in Big 12 action in Austin this evening, as the seventh-ranked Texas Longhorns play host to the 11th-ranked Missouri Tigers at the Erwin Center.
Rick Barnes' Longhorns have won five straight games, all in-conference and enter this game with tons of momentum, coming off a hugely successful road trip that included wins over previously unbeaten Kansas (74-63) and most recently, Oklahoma State (61-46).
Texas and Missouri are both 17-3 overall, but Mike Anderson's Tigers have struggled a bit in league play. Losses at Colorado and Texas A&M leave the team at 3-2 in-conference, but the Tigers have won two straight games entering this weekend, with lopsided home wins over Kansas State (75-59) and Iowa State (87-54).
This marks the 22nd meeting between these two teams on the hardwood, with the series sitting a 11-10 in favor of the Longhorns. Missouri won the last meeting however, an 82-77 decision in Columbia last February.
Dubbed the "fastest forty minutes in basketball," the Tigers obviously enjoy getting up and down the floor at a feverish pace. A strong offensive team, Missouri is averaging a robust 85.0 ppg, on .475 shooting. Scoring depth is apparent with five players currently averaging double figures. Junior guard Marcus Denmon is the most explosive of the bunch, averaging 17.3 ppg on a sturdy 50.4 percent shooting. That mark includes a .491 clip from behind the arc (53-of-108). Ricardo Ratliffe is next in line at 11.8 ppg, while pacing the team on the boards (7.0 rpg). Laurence Bowers is another frontcourt option at 11.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, while Michael Dixon (10.9 ppg) and Kim English (10.7 ppg) finish off the potent quintet. In the 33-point romp over Iowa State last weekend, Missouri once again received balanced scoring across the board. All five starters finished in double figures, led by Dixon's 15 points. Denmon added 13 points, followed by Ratliffe and English at 12 points apiece and Justin Safford with 11.
Texas has the ability to neutralize Missouri's up-tempo style of play with a strong frontcourt trio. It starts with sophomore superstar Jordan Hamilton, who can do it all, averaging 19.2 ppg, while also pulling down 7.4 rpg. Hamilton has great range, shooting over 43 percent from behind the arc and leads the team with 54 three-pointers. Freshman Tristan Thompson is both a scorer (13.1 ppg) and rebounder (7.4 rpg), with senior Gary Johnson (11.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg) completing the dominant play up front. Further scoring depth comes in the form of freshman guard Cory Joseph (11.1 ppg) and sophomore guard J'Covan Brown (9.5 ppg) coming off the bench. It was 14 points from Thompson and a double-double from Hamilton (12 points, 11 rebounds) that led the Longhorns to a 15-point win in Stillwater this week. Texas once again put the defensive clamps on an opponent, holding the Cowboys to a mere 46 points and 32.1 percent shooting from the field. In league play this season, the Longhorns are holding foes to a meager 53.4 ppg and 37.5 percent shooting.
Texas is an impressive 83-15 in Big 12 home games under Barnes and although the team is likely to falter in league play at some point this season, the current high the Longhorns are riding should carry over this weekend in front of a hugely appreciative fan base.