GAME NOTES: With just two games left in the regular season, the Missouri Tigers and the Arkansas Razorbacks square off at Mizzou Arena on Tuesday night in a crucial SEC showdown.
Arkansas is fresh off an impressive 73-60 win over Kentucky on Saturday, which improved it to 18-11 overall and 9-7 in league play, but it still has plenty of work to do if it wants to secure one of top four seeds and a first-round bye in the upcoming SEC Tournament, as it is tied with Tennessee for fifth place coming into the week. The Razorbacks haven't fared well away from home this season, going a lowly 1-8 in road matchups.
Conversely, Missouri attempts to close out its home slate undefeated, as it improved to 16-0 at Mizzou Arena following an 89-76 triumph over LSU on Saturday. The Tigers are now 21-8 overall and 10-6 in the SEC, tied with Ole Miss while Alabama (11-5), Kentucky (11-5) and Florida (13-3) all sit ahead of them.
Arkansas captured a thrilling 73-71 win over Missouri at home on Feb. 16 to improve to 20-18 in the all-time series
The Razorbacks were far from their best over the weekend against Kentucky, as they were outshot from the field, .465 to .348, but they were able to earn the 13-point victory by taking a whopping 26 more shots than did the Wildcats, gaining extra possessions by winning the turnover battle (19-7) and by corralling an outstanding 20 offensive rebounds. Marshawn Powell led the way with 15 points and nine rebounds, Coty Clarke had 14 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, and BJ Young tacked on 13 points in the triumph.
Arkansas is the SEC's fourth-most potent scoring offense with 74.1 ppg, but it has not lived up to those expectations on the road this year, as it has scored 60 points or less in five of its last six games outside of Fayetteville. Young is dangerous out on the perimeter with 15.2 ppg, while Powell takes care of business down low with 14.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg and more than a block and a steal per tilt. Nine others average between 3.5 and 7.5 ppg to round out a deep rotation.
After trailing by 13 points midway through the first half against LSU, Missouri ended the frame on a 31-14 run to carry a four-point lead into intermission, and cruised from there. Leading a 58.1 percent field goal shooting effort was Laurence Bowers, who tallied 23 points and 10 rebounds. Alex Oriakhi also had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds, Phil Pressey logged 15 points and eight assists, while Earnest Ross and Keion Bell turned in 13 and 11 points, respectively.
The Tigers are used to well-rounded scoring performances en route to their 77.1 ppg (2nd in SEC), as they boast six players who net in double figures. They have no shortage of talent in the frontcourt, as Bowers (14.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.0 bpg), Oriakhi (11.1 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.6 bpg) and Ross (10.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg) give the squad an advantage in the trenches against nearly every opponent. Pressey (12.1 ppg) hasn't impressed with his shooting (.380 FG percentage), but he's the SEC's top floor general with 7.1 apg. Jabari Brown (14.0 ppg) and Bell (11.9 ppg) have both been impressive shooting guards.
Both teams have demonstrated excellence at the offensive end of the floor this season, but in this matchup, it simply comes down to Missouri's dominant play at home versus Arkansas' road woes. The Tigers' depth will make the difference, sending Mizzou's seniors out with a win in their final home game.