GAME NOTES: Two teams trending in opposite directions in the SEC standings will square off at Coleman Coliseum on Saturday night, as the Alabama Crimson Tide play host to the Missouri Tigers.
Missouri hit a slide at the beginning of February with three straight losses but has since righted the ship with three consecutive victories, most recently downing Vanderbilt at home on Wednesday night, 67-64. The Tigers are now 19-7 overall and 7-6 in the SEC, although they have gone just 3-4 on the road.
Alabama, meanwhile, has dropped back-to-back games and six of its last seven to slide all the way to 10-16 overall and just 4-9 in league action. The Tide remained winless on the road this season after falling on the wrong end of a 63-48 decision at Texas A&M on Thursday night, but the good news for this bout is that all of their wins have come in Tuscaloosa (10-4).
Missouri dismissed Alabama in Columbia back on Jan. 18, 68-47, although the Tide still hold a slim 4-3 advantage in the all-time series.
The Tigers battled Vanderbilt back and forth earlier in the week, as the teams exchanged 11 lead changes, but trailing by three with under six minutes to play, they ripped off a 13-2 run to take control of the contest for good and held on down the stretch for the three-point victory. They outshot Vandy from the field, 47.7 percent to 40 percent, and were paced by a 21-point, five- assist effort by Jordan Clarkson, who drained all 11 of his free-throw attempts on the evening. Earnest Ross was impressive from 3-point range (4- of-8) on his way to 16 points, while Jabari Brown added 10 points to the winning effort.
Missouri boasts a strong offensive attack this season, shooting 46.5 percent from the field, including 37 percent from 3-point range for 75.0 ppg, which has been more than enough to support its defensive effort (.401, 69.0 ppg). The team also owns a strong +5.3 rebounding margin but gives some of those extra possessions away with a -1.6 turnover margin. Brown is the SEC's second- leading scorer with 20.1 ppg and sports great percentages from the field (.491), 3-point range (.452) and the free-throw line (.798). Clarkson (18.8 ppg) is also an elite option and dishes out 3.5 apg, while Ross (14.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg) rounds out one of the nation's top scoring trios.
The Tide were able to hang tough with Texas A&M for much of their latest contest and even held a lead early in the second half, but they lost control down the stretch and eventually fell by a 15-point margin. They shot a mere 37 percent from the field and a dreadful 7-of-16 from 3-point range while committing a game-high 13 turnovers. Trevor Releford continued his hot streak by shooting 7-of-14 from the floor for 20 points. He has now scored 20 or more in four straight and six of the past eight. Shannon Hale was the only other notable performer with 12 points and nine rebounds.
Alabama has underwhelmed offensively this season, as it scores just 67.8 ppg on 44 percent field-goal shooting, which all but negates an impressive effort on the defensive end of the court (.428, 67.7 ppg). Despite the struggles of many of his teammates, Releford has been consistently one of the nation's best guards, as he scores 19.0 ppg with great percentages from the field (.505), 3- point range (.403) and the foul line (.900) while adding 2.2 spg as well. Retin Obasahon is the only other player to average in double figures with 10.0 ppg and is a strong defender as well with 2.0 spg and 1.2 bpg.
While Alabama has been putrid on the road this season, it has been able to hold its own at Coleman Coliseum, so expect the Tide to be in this contest from start to finish, but in the end Missouri's superior scoring talent will win out as its hot streak continues.
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