University of Missouri

Illinois-Missouri basketball preview


4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis


ESPN2; KMBZ (980 AM, 98.1 FM)


Missouri coach Frank Haith said the annual Braggin’ Rights game signifies Christmas time. Of course, he hopes the game won’t turn out to be a lump of coal for his Tigers. Missouri has won four straight against Illinois, the Tigers’ longest winning streak in series history. On Sunday, Missouri struggled to shake Western Michigan, committing 14 turnovers and allowing 14 offensive rebounds. Another sloppy performance probably will result in the season’s first loss against a physical Illinois squad. Junior Jabari Brown scored 18 in last season’s Braggin’ Rights game.


Illinois doesn’t shoot the ball especially well, averaging 44.8 percent from the field and 33.8 percent from three-point range. Both marks are middle of the pack among the 345 NCAA Division I teams. Making shots will be crucial against a Missouri defense that ranks 25th in the nation defensively, allowing opponents to shoot a meager 38.1 percent. Senior Joseph Bertrand, whom Haith called a thorn in Missouri’s side along with junior Tracy Abrams, scored 13 and forward Nnanna Egwu added 12 points in last year’s game. At least Missouri should have a good scouting report on Illinois’ leading scorer, Rayvonte Rice, who played two seasons for Tigers assistant coach Mark Phelps at Drake.


Missouri is 14-4 in neutral-court games under Frank Haith, including a 4-1 record against ranked opponents. The Tigers boast one of six guard pairings in the nation that average at least 19 points apiece, juniors Jordan Clarkson (19.4) and Jabari Brown (19.0). Clarkson topped 1,000 career points Dec. 7 against UCLA and senior Earnest Ross, who rounds out the starting backcourt, needs only 10 points to join him in the 1,000-point club.

F3Johnathan Williams III6-9Fr.6.5
F44Ryan Rosburg6-10So.5.6
G5Jordan Clarkson6-5Jr.19.4
G32Jabari Brown6-5Jr.19.0
G33Earnest Ross6-5Sr.14.2
F32Nnanna Egwu6-11Jr.8.3
F33Jon Ekey6-7Sr.9.2
G2Joseph Bertrand6-6Sr.10.7
G13Tracy Abrams6-2Jr.11.5
G24Rayvonte Rice6-4Jr.17.7