Missouri nearly knocked off Mississippi in a Feb. 3 meeting at Mizzou Arena. Senior Stefan Moody’s free throws with 13 seconds remaining proved to be the difference for the Rebels, who played without junior forward Sebastian Saiz.
Still, that result gives the Tigers confidence looking toward a rematch at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Pavilion at Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss.
“It was a three-point game and definitely a winnable game, so we’re really confident going into that matchup and we think we can win that game,” said freshman forward Kevin Puryear, who is coming off a career-high 23 points Saturday at Arkansas.
Missouri lugs a few long losing streaks — 24 straight on the road, 21 consecutive road games in conference and 28 in a row against NCAA Division I teams away from Mizzou Arena — that they’d love to unload at Mississippi’s new arena.
“We’re just trying to get the monkey off our back,” senior forward Ryan Rosburg said. “We need to figure out a way to get it done (on the road).”
Saiz’s return makes the Rebels more formidable inside, but he’s still struggling to regain his pre-injury form.
The Tigers, of course, are different too after junior guard Wes Clark’s dismissal last week. He scored a team-high 20 in the previous meeting.
Second-year coach Kim Anderson believes the key to victory, regardless of the shifting personnel sands, lies in containing Mississippi senior guard Stefan Moody. During the last two seasons, Moody averages 23 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists against Missouri.
“He’s just a sensational player and does so much for his team,” Anderson said. “It’s not just when you look at his scoring, but I think he does a great job distributing the basketball to other players and getting them shots.”
Moody leads the SEC in scoring at 22.8 points per game, a figure that actually goes up slightly to 22.9 points in conference games.
“We tried to trap him, we tried to switch him, we tried all kinds of stuff,” Anderson said. “The main thing is, once he gets rid of the ball, you’ve got to try to not let him have it back in a position that he’s comfortable in. That’s hard to do. It takes a lot of manpower to do that. Terrence can’t do it by himself. You’ve got to put two or three guys on him. He’s the focal point of their team, so you’ve got to do a good job on him.”
Missouri, which connected on a season-high for three-pointers against Mississippi in the first meeting, also needs to make shots from the perimeter. The Tigers were 10 of 21 in the first game against the Rebels, 47.6 percent, but that’s the only conference game this season Anderson’s squad shot better 37 percent from long range.
“We had some confidence, we made some shots and it kind of rolled,” Anderson said. “They played a lot of zone (defense) and mixed their defenses up a lot, but that particularly night we got good shots and knocked them down.”
Missouri’s had good shots in other games, but shoots below 30 percent on the season from three-point range and a paltry 25.8 percent in SEC games.
“It’s crucial if you’re going to win,” Anderson said. “We’ve got to be able to improve that.”
The Tigers should have junior forward Russell Woods, who missed Saturday’s game to attend his grandfather’s funeral in Chicago, available at Mississippi, Anderson said Monday during the weekly SEC coaches’ teleconference.