No. 7 Missouri at UCLA
• WHEN/WHERE: 9 p.m. Friday at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles
• TV/RADIO: ESPN2; KMBZ (980 AM, 98.1 FM)
• ABOUT MISSOURI (10-1): Missouri earned its first signature win of the season on Saturday, when it used a combination of toughness and resiliency to topple previously undefeated Illinois 82-73 in the annual Braggin’ Rights Game. Senior forward Laurence Bowers stook out racked up 23 points and 10 rebounds in a performance that helped him earn Southeastern Conference player of the week honors. Phil Pressey shot three for 19 from the field but controlled the pace and dropped 11 assists while collecting seven rebounds. Sophomore guard Jabari Brown, a transfer from Oregon, scored a career-high 18 points in his first MU start. … Missouri has now won six straight games since a disappointing 84-61 loss to Louisville on Nov. 23.
• ABOUT UCLA (9-3): Expectations were high for the Bruins this season, as embattled head coach Ben Howland welcomed four of the nation’s top 62 players to Westwood. But a rocky 8-3 start that included a bad home loss to Cal-Poly and the sudden transfer of two contributors, center Josh Smith and guard Tyler Lamb, led to reports that Howland’s job could be in jeopardy. … UCLA is led by a trio of NBA-caliber freshmen, including swingmen Shabazz Muhammad (the No. 1 recruit in the country), Kyle Anderson (No. 3) and guard Jordan Adams (No. 62). Together, they average a combined 46 points per game. … Steady senior point guard Larry Drew II is averaging 8.5 assists per game, while junior center Travis Wear hasn’t quite lived up to four-star billing out of high school, but still averages 10.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
• BOTTOM LINE: There’s plenty of good karma surrounding Missouri right now, but the Tigers’ first trip to Pauley Pavilion in 37 years will also double as their first true road test of the season. It’s hard to imagine UCLA competing with MU on the boards — the Tigers lead the nation with a plus-14.2 rebounding margin — but young teams tend to play better at home, and the Bruins’ three dynamic freshmen are all very skilled offensively. The loss of MU backup forward Tony Criswell hurts but the Tigers still have the depth to match UCLA’s talent, provided they avoid a letdown after a big win.
| Terez A. Paylor, firstname.lastname@example.org