COLUMBIA — Missouri is doing something better than anybody in the nation — winning at home.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
The Tigers take a college basketball-best 23-game homecourt winning streak into Saturday’s game against No. 18 UCLA. Tip off is at 11:30 a.m. in Mizzou Arena.
There’s more. By beating West Virginia on Thursday, Mizzou extended its home winning streak against nonconference opponents to 78 games.
The Tigers haven’t dropped a nonconference game at Mizzou Arena since 2005, when Sam Houston State won during the Preseason NIT.
“It’s tradition,” Tigers guard Jordan Clarkson said. “We want to keep that going, protecting the home court. You can’t let a team come in here and do what they want to do.”
Take Thursday. The Tigers opened leads of 11-1 and 18-6 on the Mountaineers before holding on for an 80-71 triumph. Clarkson, the transfer from Tulsa, led Missouri with 25 points.
“We can’t let a team come in here and hit us in the mouth,” Clarkson said.
The Tigers will need a strong jaw — and defense — against the Bruins, 8-0, coming off an 89-76 victory over UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday.
UCLA has been an offensive machine, surpassing 80 points in seven straight games. That hasn’t happened since 1998.
“They’re as good offensively as anybody in the country,” Tigers coach Frank Haith said.
UCLA is shooting 55.3 percent as a team and four are averaging in double figures, led by guard Jordan Adams at 21.5 points. Freshman guard Zach LaVine averages 14.4 points and is making 56 percent of his three pointers.
But Mizzou’s defense was terrific most of the night against West Virginia. The Mountaineers entered the game as the Big 12’s top three-point shooting team at 46.5 percent and went four of 19 from behind the arc.
The Tigers, who start three guards who are 6 feet 5 — Clarkson, Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross — were a matchup problem for West Virginia. But UCLA presents matchup issues for the Tigers, especially 6-9 guard Kyle Anderson.
Earlier this season, Anderson recorded the third triple-double in school history when he scored 13 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out 11 assists in a victory over Morehead State.
“He’s unique, and a great passer,” Haith said. “He’s like a point forward.”
UCLA becomes the first ranked nonconference team to visit Mizzou Arena during the Tigers’ long winning streak, and Mizzou hopes it’s the start of a big sports day. The game precedes the SEC championship football game between the Tigers and Auburn, with both games televised on CBS.
“Great day for Mizzou, right,” Haith said.
His team can start it by keeping streaks alive.
To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.