Western Illinois (1-0) at (15) Missouri (0-0)
Thursday, November 18th, 8:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mizzou Arena (15,061) -- Columbia, Missouri. Television: MSN. Home Record: W. Illinois 0-0, Missouri 0-0. Away Record: W. Illinois 1-0, Missouri 0-0. Neutral Record: W. Illinois 0-0, Missouri 0-0. Conference Record: W. Illinois 0-0, Missouri 0-0. Series Record: Missouri leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The 15th-ranked Missouri Tigers are expected to be one of the better teams in the loaded Big 12 Conference this season, and the club will open the regular season tonight against the Western Illinois Leathernecks.
A member of the Summit League, Western Illinois has played only one game so far this season. On Sunday, the club put forth a strong defensive effort in a 59-52 road triumph over Savannah State. Clearly, the level of competition spikes dramatically for the Leathernecks this evening.
Despite the loss of three 1,000-point scorers, the Tigers were able to win 23 games last season and return to the NCAA Tournament. Missouri welcomes back four of its top scorers, and a strong recruiting class figures to serve as a tremendous complement. There is no question that head coach Mike Anderson's Tigers will push the tempo at both ends of the floor every time out.
In regard to the all-time series between Western Illinois and Missouri, the Tigers own a 1-0 advantage.
It isn't difficult to figure out why Western Illinois finished 6-12 versus Summit competition a year ago, as the team managed only 59 ppg, the worst scoring output in the league. Fortunately, Ceola Clark is back, and he actually has the talent to win the league's scoring title. Clark posted 14.2 ppg on the strength of his solid three-point shooting last season, and he was tremendous in Sunday's opener against Savannah State. Clark poured in 22 points on the strength of 6-of-11 shooting from the field, including 4-of-8 from three-point range, and 6-of-6 from the foul line. Matt Lander was impressive as well, hitting 6-of-8 field goal attempts en route to 15 points. Clearly, there is room for improvement at the offensive end, however, as the club turned the ball over 16 times en route to a modest total of 59 points. However, the Leathernecks played tremendous team defense, holding the opposition to 38.6 percent field goal efficiency.
Missouri has really adapted to coach Anderson's 40-minutes-of-fury style of play, which helped the team lead the nation with 10.9 steals per game last season. Kim English (14.0 ppg) and Marcus Denmon (10.4 ppg) head a talented backcourt, while Laurence Bowers (10.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and Justin Safford (8.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg) anchor the low post. A solid recruiting class is headlined by 5-10 freshman point guard Phil Pressey (younger brother of Tiger guard Matt Pressey), one of the best at his position entering the college ranks. Mizzou has plenty of other up-and-coming talent as well and they will surely get their fair share of time in Anderson's system.
Missouri is far more talented than Western Illinois and will cruise to victory tonight. There is not a more fun style to watch than that the Tigers play.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Missouri 99, Western Illinois 57
11/18 10:42:38 ET