Missouri at Kentucky
• WHEN/WHERE: 8 p.m. Saturday at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky.
• TV/RADIO: ESPN; KMBZ (980 AM, 98.1 FM)
• ABOUT MISSOURI (19-7, 8-5 SEC): The Tigers won perhaps their biggest game of the season Tuesday, overcoming a 13-point second-half deficit in beating No. 5 Florida 63-60 at Mizzou Arena. Missouri received sterling performances from several players, including previously slumping co-captains Laurence Bowers (17 points, 10 rebounds) and Phil Pressey (seven points, 10 assists). Bowers finally looked like he did before he suffered a knee injury in December, and Pressey played under control in crunch time. If Missouri beats Kentucky, coach Frank Haith will be the fastest to reach 50 wins in MU history. Haith announced Friday that freshman forward Stefan Jankovic will sit because of an illness.
• ABOUT KENTUCKY (18-8, 9-4 SEC): The defending national champions dont resemble last seasons squad as the Wildcats entire starting lineup fled to the NBA. Kentucky is 1-1 since it lost star freshman center Nerlens Noel for the season because of a gruesome knee injury. Freshman center Willie Cauley-Stein, an Olathe Northwest graduate, will have to step up in his absence. Cauley-Stein scored a career-high 20 points and had seven rebounds and three blocks in a 74-70 home win over a sub-.500 Vanderbilt team on Wednesday. Freshman forward Alex Poythress and freshman guard Archie Goodwin are offensive threats who stand to become the latest in a long line of first-round draft picks at Kentucky.
• BOTTOM LINE: Kentucky needs a win to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive without Noel, while the Tigers 1-6 in true road games this season could prove a lot with a victory in one of college basketballs most storied arenas. The Tigers boast more experience than the Wildcats, but that doesnt figure to matter at Rupp, where Kentuckys youngsters will be comfortable. The Tigers need to take care of the ball, defend with passion and keep their composure. Theyve yet to do it this season against a decent team on the road, but theyve made steady improvement.
| Terez A. Paylor, firstname.lastname@example.org