GAME NOTES: The Missouri Tigers will attempt to turn their poor start in the SEC around on Saturday afternoon, as they return home to Mizzou Arena to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Alabama has had an up-and-down season overall, splitting its 16 games right down the middle, but it has enjoyed an upswing in production in league action at 2-1. The Tide most recently made easy work of Mississippi State on Wednesday night in a 80-61 victory, but they have not fared well away from home, going 0-3 in true road games.
Missouri breezed through its non-conference slate of games, opening up 12-1 and surging into the Top 25, but since entering SEC play it has dropped two of three, including a 78-75 setback at Vanderbilt on Thursday night. The Tigers are 8-1 at home but had their nation-long 25-game home winning streak come to an end with their 70-64 loss versus Georgia on Jan. 8.
The Tigers defeated the Tide last season in Mizzou Arena, 84-68, in the team's inaugural matchup as conference foes. Alabama still leads the all-time series, 4-2.
The outcome of the Tide's most recent game was never in question, as they outshot Mississippi State from the field, 52.6 percent to 44 percent, and won both the rebounding (33-28) and turnover (14-11) battles en route to the convincing 19-point victory. Trevor Releford led the effort with 28 points, doing so on 10-of-13 from the field, including 6-of-9 from beyond the arc. Shannon Hale chipped in with 13 points, Retin Obasohan scored 11 and helped out on defense with four blocks and three steals and Rodney Cooper came off the bench to net 10.
Despite its modest record, Alabama has grown accustomed to similarly well- rounded performances this season, as it shoots 46.2 percent from the field for 71.9 ppg while allowing just 66.1 ppg on 41.5 percent shooting. Releford, the team's leading scorer with 18.9 ppg, is one of the nation's most efficient guards, as he boasts outstanding percentages from the field (.525), 3-point range (.411) and the foul line (.931). Obasohan (12.3 ppg) is an elite defender with 2.6 spg and 1.3 bpg, while Levi Randolph (9.3 ppg) and Nick Jacobs (9.1 ppg) also do their share.
After falling behind Vanderbilt by as many as 12 points early, Missouri climbed back to take a 44-43 lead with 15:05 remaining in the game, but it fell victim to an 8-2 Vandy run and could never recover down the stretch. It shot a mere 39.1 percent from the field in the three-point loss, which included an especially poor showing from long distance (6-of-23). Jabari Brown did what he could to lift the team to victory, pouring in 22 points on 7-of-13 from the field, while Jordan Clarkson (18 points, seven rebounds) and Earnest Ross (11 points, nine rebounds, five assists) were also stellar.
The Tigers possess an impressive offense this season, shooting 46.5 percent from the field for 75.0 ppg, although that number has shrunk to just 68.0 ppg over the last seven outings. Luckily they still have a strong scoring defense (66.4 ppg) and rebounding margin (+8.3) to rely on even when their shot is off the mark. Clarkson (18.8 ppg) and Brown (18.4 ppg) are neck-and-neck for the scoring lead, with both guards shooting greater than 47 percent from the floor and 75 percent at the free-throw line. Rounding out an impressive scoring trio is Ross (14.0 ppg), who adds 6.5 rpg and 1.5 spg for good measure.
Missouri has proven to be vulnerable in recent weeks, but it is still a tough draw on its home floor, while Alabama has yet to win outside of Tuscaloosa. Figure for the Tigers to get back on the winning track in this one.
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