Missouri at Mississippi
WHEN/WHERE: 8 p.m. Tuesday at The Pavilion at Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss.
TV/RADIO: SEC Network, KMBZ (980 AM, 98.1 FM)
Keys for Missouri (15-8, 5-5 SEC)
Get another all-around team effort. Mizzou has just eight available scholarship players right now, and each of them made an impact in the Tigers’ win over Kentucky. Cullen VanLeer played solid defense and came up with a key steal during a second-half run. Jontay Porter and Jeremiah Tilmon stayed out of foul trouble. Even Reed Nikko grabbed five rebounds in nine minutes. For a team without a superstar, this sort of effort is Mizzou’s best route to victory. “I think the biggest thing in our three losses (in a row was) just the production of our big guys,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said. “We need those guys on the floor. It’s not so much how many points they score, but their production.”
Own the glass. The Tigers allowed the Wildcats to grab 20 offensive rebounds on Saturday. That’s a big reason the game remained close. Against a less-talented Ole Miss team, Missouri can make sure to keep the Rebels from threatening if it does a better job rebounding on both ends of the floor. The Rebels’ opponents’ offensive rebounding rate this season, 31.8 percent, is tied for second worst in the SEC with Tennessee.
Stay focused. After an up-and-down past couple of weeks, Mizzou can’t look beyond the Rebels, who are arguably the easiest opponent Missouri will face on the road the rest of this season. If the Tigers aren’t focused, you’re most likely to see the effects on the defensive end, where Martin has said his team has failed to be engaged at times this season.
Keys for Mississippi (11-12, 4-6 SEC)
Be respectable from three. The Rebels’ three-point percentage (33.6) is almost identical to Kentucky’s. The Wildcats made just 2 of 20 threes against Mizzou on Saturday. Ole Miss doesn’t need to bomb the Tigers with 10-plus makes from three, but doing better than Kentucky from beyond the arc would help stretch the MU defense.
Take advantage of Tilmon if… This might not apply, given how well Jeremiah Tilmon has played in Mizzou’s past two wins. But at times this season, the Tigers’ center has tried to avoid foul trouble by playing timidly. If Tilmon does so again on Tuesday, and Ole Miss can’t get shots to drop from three, then attacking the 6-foot-10 freshman could be an easy way for the Rebels to score. When Mississippi State beat the Tigers, it went inside against Tilmon to begin the second half and grew its lead.
Find a third scorer. Deandre Burnett and Terence Davis lead Ole Miss’ offense, but when the Rebels have won SEC games this season, they have had a more balanced attack. Guard Markel Crawford, a transfer from Memphis, has been inconsistent this season while starting 16 of 23 games, but he has scored 15-plus points in three of the Rebels’ four conference wins.