Missouri vs. No. 21 Kentucky
WHEN/WHERE: 1 p.m. Saturday at Mizzou Arena in Columbia
TV/RADIO: CBS; KMBZ (980 AM, 98.1 FM)
Keys for Missouri (14-8, 4-5 SEC):
Get the most out of Jeremiah Tilmon. Mizzou can’t expect its freshman center to play more than 20 minutes in a game. He will almost always end up in foul trouble. So what is a reasonable request? Production similar to what he did in MU’s win at Alabama earlier this week (12 points on 6-of-6 shooting in just 14 minutes) would be great for Missouri. Coach Cuonzo Martin has said Tilmon can’t stay out of foul trouble by playing timidly, so this is the next best thing: Hope Tilmon avoids egregious fouls, such as hacking opponents in the backcourt after long rebounds, and is productive while he is on the court. He will match up against 6-foot-11 freshman Nick Richards, who can be a good rebounder.
Perform well from three. This will be hard to do against Kentucky, which has held opponents to 28.8 percent shooting from beyond the arc this season, but making threes is Missouri’s best route to victory. During their recent three-game losing streak, the Tigers had converted 21 of 70 three-point attempts. Missouri, a team that is limited offensively, performed better in its win over the Alabama this week (9-of-23) and will need to continue the strong shooting on Saturday.
Avoid the Cats’ comeback. In its past two games, both wins, Kentucky came back from a 17-point second-half deficit at West Virginia and an 11-point one against Vanderbilt. Missouri has struggled to close games out all seasons, and it will face a team that is able to exploit that trait.
Keys for Kentucky (17-5, 6-3 SEC):
Get Kevin Knox going early. The 6-foot-9 freshman forward — who took an official visit to Missouri with Michael Porter Jr. — is leading the Wildcats in scoring this season with 15.6 points per game, and he has been on a tear recently. He is averaging 23.7 points per game over Kentucky’s past three games. Knox can play both forward positions, and he will have a favorable mismatch whenever his defender is 6-foot-11 Jontay Porter, who is perhaps a step too slow to guard Knox on the perimeter.
Attack the Missouri players who are in foul trouble. With guard Terrence Phillips indefinitely suspended, Missouri is down to just eight available scholarship players. Mizzou is thin at every position. So if Kentucky sees an opportunity draw a foul by forcing the ball inside or isolating defender on the perimeter, it should do so.
Stop Kassius Robertson. The graduate transfer leads Missouri in scoring and is averaging 17.2 points per game during conference play. He has scored at least 20 points in each of Mizzou’s past three games. With Jordan Barnett struggling for much of the past two weeks, Robertson has become Missouri’s most reliable scoring option. If the Wildcats shut him down, they should win this game.