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Missouri Basketball Preview and Live Game Thread: Tigers take on UCF in Sunrise, FL

Mizzou ventures south to take on the Knights in the most Florida-named city ever.

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi Valley State at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Mizzou 68 | UCF 66


First Half Notes

  • Mizzou comes out with a new starting lineup: Nick Honor, Tre Gomillion, Ronnie DeGray III, D’Moi Hodge, Kobe Brown | Noah Carter and DeAndre Gholston will be coming off the bench.
  • UCF Starting Five: Darius Johnson, Ithiel Horton, CJ Kelly, Michael Durr and Taylor Hendricks
  • Mizzou wins the tip-off and we’re underway from Florida.
  • CJ Kelly with the first basket of the game on a three-pointer for UCF.
  • Isiaih Mosley is in the game, but the Tigers cannot buy a basket or a rebound.
  • Nick Honor breaks the scoring drought with a three-pointer.
  • Noah Carter hits a three-pointer to give him over 1,000 points in his collegiate career at 1,001.
  • Honor is feeling it from beyond the arc. He’s 3-3 from long range and looks poised.
  • Mizzou is 5-8 from three-point land, accounting for every single of of its points.
  • Honor is 5-6 from beyond the arc and nearing his season-high in points of 16.
  • It’s looking like a three-point contest in Florida. Mizzou is 8-13, while UCF is 4-11.
  • The Tigers only have six points via shots other than three-point field goals. That’s been the recipe of success so far, and it’s worked out well.
  • A 8-0 UCF run has flipped the lead.
  • DeGray with a block and a reverse layup, showcasing his ability to make an impact on both sides of the basketball.
  • The Knights finished on a 9-2 run. CJ Kelly has 13 points and Darius Johnson has added 10 points for UCF. On the Mizzou side, Nick Honor has 15 points and Kobe Brown has eight of his own.

Second Half Notes

  • Gholston begins the second half scoring with a three-point basket, giving him his first points of the day. He adds a jumper to give him five quick points.
  • D’Moi Hodge with the slam, and Mizzou is up to a six-point lead.
  • Gholston has seven of the Tigers’ nine points in the second half, as Mizzou has jumped out to a 9-0 run.
  • Mizzou’s defensive pressure continues to cause problems for UCF, and Hodge continue an efficient Tigers’ run with a three-pointer.
  • Honor, with a nifty floater, is up to a season-high 17 points.
  • A little scuffle here following a foul on Honor, and the pressure is getting to the Knights.
  • Noah Carter narrowly misses an emphatic dunk, and the momentum is beginning to slide back toward UCF.
  • The Knights are back with single digits, utilizing Mizzou foul trouble to knock down free throws.
  • Kelly drills a three-pointer for UCF and the Knights are forcing their way back into this one.
  • Gholston continues to be the Tigers’ best player in the second half, keeping them afloat as UCF fights back.
  • Horton makes it a three-point game.
  • Tied game in Sunrise. UCF erased a 14-point second half deficit.
  • Hodge with a three-pointer to break the tie, but Honor and Carter are now in foul trouble with four fouls apiece. Kelly, for UCF, also has four fouls.
  • Hendricks with a huge block, but the Tigers secure the offensive rebound.
  • CJ Kelly with his fifth foul, as DeGray grabs another offensive rebound. The Tiger knocks down both free throws.
  • DeGray is showcasing his worth, forcing a vital turnover with a come-from-behind steal.
  • Hendricks with an impactful three-pointer for UCF.
  • Gholston at the buzzer. Mizzou Wins.

Pregame Notes

Five Questions!

  1. Will the Tigers cover?
  2. Who will be the leading scorer?
  3. How many 3-pointers will D’Moi Hodge make?
  4. How many assists will the team have in total?
  5. What will the final score be?

Lastly, drop your game predictions and MVPs down below!

As Missouri’s season schedule begins to heat up, the Tigers will migrate to warmer temperatures for a date with 8-2 UCF in the AutoNation Orange Bowl Basketball Classic.

After falling to Kansas, Mizzou looks to rebound with a win over the Knights. UCF is a strong contender in the American conference, so a “neutral-site”** win over them would go a long way for the Tigers’ résumé. The Knights are coming off a 72-61 victory over Ole Miss on Wednesday in Oxford.

Allowing a meager 60.3 points per game and having already defeated the likes of Oklahoma State, Florida State, and the aforementioned Rebels, the Knights are similarly in search of another quality win. This “neutral-site” is in swing game carries a lot of importance for two teams that seem bound for the bubble in March and are looking to pile up quality wins.

*As a side note, Missouri guard Nick Honor is from Orlando, FL, where UCF’s campus is located.

**UCF’s fanbase isn’t known to travel well and this game will be played in Sunrise, FL, which is near Fort Lauderdale and about 3 hours away from Orlando, hence the “neutral-site”.

Game Info

When: Saturday, December 17th

Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise, FL

Time: 11:00 a.m. CST

TV: Bally Sports Florida/Midwest

KenPom Win Probability: UCF 58%

The Starters


PG: Nick Honor (SR)
SG: D’Moi Hodge (Grad)
SF: DeAndre Gholston (Grad)
PF: Kobe Brown (SR)
C: Noah Carter (SR)


PG: Darius Johnson (SOPH)
SG: Ithiel Horton (SR)
SF: CJ Kelly (SR)
PF: Taylor Hendricks (FR)
C: Michael Durr (SR)

*These lineups are projected

Get To Know UCF

The Knights have gotten out to an 8-2 start to the season, having taken down the likes of Oklahoma State, Florida State, Ole Miss, and Santa Clara, while falling to Miami and—inexplicably in 2OT—UNC-Asheville, to open the season.

The recent victory over the Rebels wasn’t even as close as the 72-61 final score indicates. UCF scored the first 21 points of the game and staved off a late rally to pick up a huge non-conference road win that put many people on notice.

The Knights specializes in their defense. They rank 18th in opponent effective FG% at 43.5% and have a forced turnover percentage of 22.7% (good for 41st in the nation). Also, they only allow teams to shoot a meager 27.3% from behind the arc.

However, they do allow opposing teams to wrangle 30.8% of their misses on offense (stats via KenPom), something the grittier members of Mizzou’s roster (Kobe Brown, Noah Carter, Tre Gomillion, etc.) can take advantage of.

After not playing for much of the start of the season, sophomore guard Darius Johnson burst onto the scene with 24 points against Miami a couple of weeks ago. He followed that up with 12 against Samford and 10 against Tarleton State, and he remains a threat to score whenever he is on the floor.

Senior guard C.J. Kelly, who transferred in from UMass this season, averages 9.7 points per game as well. He just tied his season-high with 20 points against Ole Miss on Wednesday.

However, freshman forward Taylor Hendricks has been the star of the show so far this season. The Fort Lauderdale product averages 15.7 points per game and 7.1 rebounds per game, and he will be a force to contain down low. At 6’9”, 210 lbs. Hendricks has already earned three Rookie of the Week Honors in the American Athletic Conference.

3 Keys to the Game

  1. Containing Hendricks

Mizzou is a tough, physical group, but they do not have much size. At 6’9”, 210 lbs., Taylor Hendricks has the frame necessary to really do some damage down low. His low-post ability could cause problems for Noah Carter and Kobe Brown if they are not able to get early positioning on the block. Hendricks makes the entire UCF offense go, and if he gets in a rhythm, it will set up the rest of his team for success.

K.J. Adams, a similarly undersized yet athletic big man for KU, had plenty of success last week against Mizzou, recording 19 points and 4 rebounds.

2. 3-point shooting

The Tigers have been a solid 3-point shooting team up to this point (34.6%, 128th in the nation), although they struggled against Kansas (30%). As mentioned, UCF has excelled at defending the 3-point line. This team needs to have a bounce back game from behind the arc, both for their confidence and their chances of winning. Someone else needs to step up and help out D’Moi Hodge.

The Tigers have needed the boost from the long shot throughout this season, and in a close game like this, they cannot afford to go ice cold.

3. Maintain defensive poise

Mizzou has generally been a solid defensive team this season, ranking second in steal percentage (17.2%), 149th in 2-point shot percentage (49%), and 114th in block percentage (10.2%, via KenPom).

Still, they have had major defensive lapses at times this season, primarily against Southern Indiana, Penn, MVSU, SEMO and of course, the vast majority of the Kansas game. Now that the competition is getting better, they cannot afford to allow teams to get hot and score 80-90+ every night.

UCF is not a spectacular offensive team, which is all the more reason to not allow them to get hot and play one of their better games of the year. The Tigers need to prove that they can win ugly in this one.

Game Prediction

My Prediction: Missouri 81 | UCF 78

KenPom Prediction: UCF 73 | Missouri 71

This will certainly be a tough test for Mizzou. Coming off an emotional game against the Jayhawks, the Tigers now have to travel to take on a tough Central Florida squad, albeit in a “neutral-site”. The Knights have the personnel to go toe-to-toe with Mizzou and are a battle-tested team who’s played multiple high-major opponents already, and won.

It will also be a contrast of styles. If the Tigers can keep this game fast-paced and high-scoring, then it goes in their favor. However, if UCF can keep this game ugly and in the low 70s or 60s, then they have the upper hand. Mizzou may have to prove that they can grind out a win in a sloppy game on Saturday, especially if their assist-to-turnover ratio looks like it did against Kansas.

How they mentally bounce back from the disappointing Border War defeat and, in turn, their first loss of the season, will be the key in what will essentially be a road environment. This team has not had to deal with much adversity this season, so it will be intriguing to see how Gates’ guys come out for this game.

A win in this game would be great to keep the ship afloat, especially with so many ranked foes and fierce competition coming up. The Tigers should get that win, though it will not come easy. This is a gut-check game if there ever was one.