GAME NOTES: A recent addition to the Top-25, the 24th-ranked Missouri Tigers will attempt to keep their undefeated start to the season alive on Sunday night when they take on the Western Michigan Broncos at Mizzou Arena.
WMU began its current three-game road swing on Dec. 7 against Northwestern, where it fell flat in a 51-35 setback. That loss not withstanding, the Broncos have been solid this season at 5-3, even though they have yet to win a true road game.
Missouri has won each of its first nine games and is attempting to move to 10-0 for just the third time in the past 32 years. The Tigers have arguably been their best in the month of December, as they dismissed West Virginia in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Dec. 5, 80-71, and followed that up with a home win over then nationally-ranked UCLA on Dec. 7, which was also an 80-71 final.
This bout marks the first meeting between the Broncos and Tigers on the hardwood.
The Broncos' impressive defensive performance against Northwestern (.327 FG percentage allowed) was all for naught, as they shot a dreadful 10-of-41 from the field themselves (.244) while committing 15 turnovers. Shayne Whittington was able to salvage an awful afternoon for the team somewhat with 12 points and 10 rebounds. David Brown finished with 10 points, but he hurt the squad more than he helped by shooting 3-of-15 from the floor. Needless to say, WMU's offensive performance the last time out dragged its season numbers way down, but it still nets a respectable 70.6 points per game, just slightly more than it allows (69.4 ppg). Brown's shooting sample has been large enough for him to average 20.1 points per game, although he shoots less than 39 percent from the field. Whittington (15.8 ppg, 11.0 rpg) has four double-doubles in six games played, while Connar Tava brings 12.6 points and 5.8 boards per game to the table.
The Tigers were able to overcome a double-digit deficit in the first half against UCLA and went on a 20-11 run over the final 10 minutes of action to capture arguably their most impressive win of the season. They shot just 41.8 percent from the field on the afternoon and lost the turnover battle, 18-11, but they made up for it with solid showings from 3-point range (10-of-26) and the free-throw line (24-of-32). Jabari Brown was especially strong from the stripe (10-of-10) en route to 22 points. Jordan Clarkson tallied 21 points and six assists, Earnest Ross netted 20 points on 5-of-11 from beyond the arc, and Johnathan Williams was also outstanding with 10 points and 15 rebounds. Missouri's early-season success has resulted in significant margins in scoring (+14.0) and rebounding (+11.1), as well as a lofty .497 field goal percentage. In his first season since transferring from Tulsa, Clarkson (20.2 ppg) has been excellent, shooting 51.5 percent from the field. Brown (19.4 ppg) shares the duties with Clarkson as go-to scorer, while Ross has been solid in his own right with 14.4 points per game.
WMU's road woes combined with the ever-improving nature of Missouri's play does not bode well for the Broncos' upset chances in this one. Expect the Tigers to put forth another well-rounded effort.