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Mizzou Hoops Preview and Live Thread: No. 19 Kentucky visits Columbia

Fresh off a ranked victory over then-No. 16 Illinois, the Tigers aim for another tonight when they host the No. 19 Kentucky Wildcats.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Missouri Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri 89 | Kentucky 75


1st Half Notes

  • Tigers open up the game on a 12-5 run capped off by a Kobe Brown breakaway dunk.
  • Mizzou Arena is electric, and the game is fast-paced right now.
  • Noah Carter with a confident 3-pointer, and then Kobe Brown breaks down Kentucky’s defense for an and-one. Tigers look comfortable on offense.
  • Oscar Tshiebwe is beginning to make his presence felt.
  • Cason Wallace with a pass interception that most NFL safeties would envy.
  • Kentucky has started this game 1-for-9 from behind the arc.
  • A Sean East II floater causes a furious John Calipari to call a timeout.
  • Defensive intensity is high for the Tigers right now. It’s leading to offense on the other end.
  • D’Moi Hodge hits his first three-pointer of the game to extend the lead to 13.
  • Aidan Shaw and Oscar Tshiebwe both get their hands on the ball and refuse to let go, firing up the crowd at Mizzou Arena.
  • Hodge with a full court-sprint finished off with an and-one layup. Kobe Brown found him down the floor right after taking the ball out of the net from a Kentucky make.
  • East II hoists a three and makes it, now up to 10 points. Kobe Brown follows him up with a routine three-pointer, igniting the crowd.
  • Defense forces another turnover, Kentucky has looked lost on offense for the past two minutes.
  • Sean East II is playing at an extremely high-level tonight. 12 points in the first half.

2nd Half Notes

  • Kobe Brown is playing like a man amongst boys in this game, now has 17 points.
  • Mizzou goes on a 7-0 run to start the second half.
  • D’Moi Hodge with a dunk off a chaotic sequence of events, extends the lead to 17.
  • Kentucky appears to have adjusted to the pace of the game. They’ve began to cut into the lead.
  • Wildcats hit their fourth 3-pointer of the game, comes from an unlikely source in Sahvir Wheeler. He follows that up with an layup to cut the lead to ten.
  • Kentucky cuts the lead to nine at the 12:40 mark.
  • D’Moi Hodge has been the man to hit most of the big shots this season. He just backed that up with a fast-break three-pointer.
  • Whenever Kentucky appears to be making a run, the Tigers respond with a barrage of threes.
  • Kobe Brown is red hot.
  • Nick Honor with a dime to Tre Gomillion for a dunk. Mizzou Arena going insane.
  • Kobe Brown leading the team with 25 points.
  • Wheeler has now hit two threes.
  • Brown with great control to guide the ball into the basket after losing the handle of it.
  • Kobe Brown follows that up by getting fouled on a 3-pointer by Tshiebwe. He’s earned opposing teams’ respect from behind the arc.
  • Gholston hits a 3-pointer from way downtown that encapsulates how this night has gone. Tigers appears to be in control of this game.
  • The free throw line is the only thing between Mizzou and two straight top 25 wins.
  • Ben Sternberg gets to shoot some free throws at the end of the game. Goes 1-for-2.
  • That’ll do it. Missouri moves on to 12-1.

5 Fan Questions:

  1. Who will lead the team in scoring?
  2. How many points will Kobe Brown have?
  3. How many dunks will Aidan Shaw have?
  4. What will the halftime score be?
  5. How many assists will Nick Honor have?

Lastly, drop your game predictions and MVPs down below.

Tonight marks the beginning of the Southeastern Conference slate for the Missouri Tigers and Kentucky Wildcats, who will meet for the 13th time on the hardwood.

At 11-1, the Tigers are off to one of their best starts in program history. For just the sixth time in the past 40 years, Mizzou won 11 of its first 12 games and reached that mark in impressive fashion, running away from then-No. 16 Illinois for a 22-point victory in the Braggin’ Rights rivalry game.

Following a pair of emotional victories, the Tigers will look to continue their success against a Wildcats program that seems to always find themselves near the top of the SEC standings each year.

Kentucky has looked the part of contender this season, defeating Michigan and a potential Ivy League champion, Yale. Those victories, however, are compounded with losses to perennial NCAA tourney teams Michigan State, Gonzaga and UCLA.

Each of those losses occurred at a neutral site or on the road, and the Wildcats have only one victory away from Rupp Arena. Their 1-3 record away from home will once again be put to the test tonight in front of a technically sold-out Mizzou crowd (the students are gone), who are hungry for another upset win.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Missouri Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info

When: Wednesday, December 28

Where: Mizzou Arena, Columbia MO

Time: 6:00 PM CST


KenPom Win Probability: 40%

The Starters


PG: Nick Honor (GR; 10.5 PPG)

SG: Tre Gomillion (GR; 5.6 PPG)

SF: D’Moi Hodge (GR; 16.7 PPG)

PF: Ronnie DeGray III (JR; 2.8 PPG)

C: Kobe Brown (SR; 14.4 PPG)

Key Bench Players: Forward Noah Carter (SR; 10.8 PPG) and Guard DeAndre Gholston (GR; 10.4 PPG)


PG: Sahvir Wheeler (SR; 8.8 PPG)

SG: Cason Wallace (FR; 11.8 PPG)

SF: Antonio Reeves (SR; 12.8 PPG)

PF: Jacob Toppin (SR; 10.5 PPG)

C: Oscar Tshiebwe (SR; 15.0 PPG)

Key Bench Players: Guard CJ Fredrick (R-SR; 7.9 PPG) and Forward Chris Livingston (FR; 6.2 PPG)

*These are projected starters for each team, based on previous games and media updates

NCAA Basketball: Florida A&M at Kentucky Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Get To Know Kentucky

Oscar Tshiebwe.

That’ll be the name to watch for the Wildcats this evening. The senior forward has become synonymous with excellence throughout his collegiate career, earning National Player of the Year honors last season as a double-double machine.

Thus far, Tshiebwe is averaging 15 points and 13 rebounds per contest, leading the Wildcats in both categories. His bread-and-butter is post play, as he has yet to attempt a three-pointer and shoots an impressive 56.4% from the field.

His notoriety and 6-foot-9 frame have forced teams into double-teaming him in an attempt to limit his impact, but that decision has led to the emergence of a trio of fellow double-digit scorers.

Antonio Reeves, a 12.8 point per game scorer, has split time via the starting lineup and bench, providing a much-needed deep threat for the Wildcats. Playing 24 minutes a night, Reeves has shot 39.7% from beyond the arc with the seventh-most three-point attempts in the SEC.

Adding to the star-studded lineup is true freshman, Cason Wallace, who is averaging 11.8 points per game on a 50% clip from three-point range. The combo-guard averages over four assists per game while also leading the Kentucky lineup with 28 steals.

Finalizing the trio is Jacob Toppin, the younger brother of former Dayton University National Player of the Year Obi Toppin. Earning extended time in the starting lineup for the first time in three years, Toppin is averaging 10.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game while shooting 40.2% from the field.

In terms of team statistics, Kentucky is one the college basketball’s top defensive teams. The Wildcats boast the nation’s 13th-best adjusted defensive efficiency (85.9%) and hold opponents to a measly 43.2% from inside the arc.

On the offensive side, the Wildcats feature a mix of everything. Kentucky shoots at a 39.9% clip from beyond the arc, the country’s ninth-best mark, but scores a majority of its points (52.4%) from inside the arc.

Providing trouble for Mizzou will be Kentucky’s rebounding, specifically on the offensive end, and lack of turnovers. The Wildcats rank in the Top-15 in offensive rebounding and boast a Top-100 mark in offensive turnover percentage.

At the helm for the Wildcats is 14-year head coach John Calipari, who ranks No. 10 in total coaching victories at the Division I level with 818 wins. A Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, Calipari marks the latest storied coach to journey to Mizzou Arena this season, following in the footsteps of Coastal Carolina head coach Cliff Ellis.

Under Calipari, there is no doubt that the Wildcats will be prepared for battle, and it’ll pose quite the challenge for the Dennis Gates-led Tigers. Amongst a two-game winning streak, Mizzou will look to showcase the talent it did against Illinois again tonight.

3 Keys To The Game

1. Limit Oscar Tshiebwe

Against Illinois, Mizzou was efficient at containing Terrance Shannon, Jr. through fierce defense and pressure, giving him little time to create opportunities and find open shot attempts.

That same defensive stand will be needed against Tshiebwe to prevent him from utterly controlling the game through his offensive capabilities and rebounding prowess. This’ll require a strong performance on the defensive end from Kobe Brown, Noah Carter and Aidan Shaw.

Tshiebwe’s efficient shot-making and ability to formulate second-chance opportunities is a large part of the Kentucky offense, so shutting that down will be an essential ingredient in pulling off an unlikely victory.

2. Win the 3-PT Battle

Kentucky shoots at a higher percentage from beyond the arc than Mizzou, but the Tigers make, on average, 10 three-pointers per game, good for 15th in the nation. Throughout the first third of the season, the Tigers have showcased an ability to win when they shoot efficiently from beyond the arc.

At the same time, however, opponents have gotten hot at different times, presenting a possible weakness in Mizzou’s three-point field goal defense. The Wildcats will have an opportunity to capitalize upon the Tigers’ lackluster three-point defense, led by Reeves and Wallace.

The best way to counteract that three-point firepower will be to prevent open shots while also capitalizing on the open attempts that Mizzou receives. It’ll take another hot shooting performance from D’Moi Hodge and Nick Honor to establish that success, but it’ll also be up to the defense to prevent Wallace from performing at a Gradey Dick level at Mizzou Arena.

3. Establish an Early Lead

Mizzou’s gameplay feeds off of runs, and that will once again be the case against Kentucky.

Against the Fighting Illini, the Tigers jumped out early and continued their early success en route to piecing together an efficient run to turn the tide in their favor.

With a packed crowd behind them, Mizzou will need to utilize that momentum and home-court advantage early. Jumping out to a double-digit lead in the first 10 minutes may be impossible against a team as talented as Kentucky, but starting with the lead would be a big confidence boost for the Tigers.

Mizzou, if it establishes a lead, will then have to limit the Wildcats and prevent that comeback. As seen against Wichita State and UCF, the Tigers’ double-digit lead can vanish quickly and it’ll be up to the veterans on the Mizzou side to stand tall.

Game Prediction

My Prediction: Kentucky 76 | Missouri 77

KenPom Prediction: Kentucky 79 | Missouri 76

As projected by KenPom, this game will likely be a toss-up with one possession determining the outcome.

Kentucky is just 2-3 against teams within the Top-70 in the KenPom rankings, including a loss to a similarly ranked Michigan State team.

Mizzou, meanwhile, lost its only other game against a Top-10 KenPom talent with a 28-point loss to kansas. Victories over UCF, Illinois and Wichita State give the Tigers a trio of Top-100 wins, but Kentucky will pose a much stiffer challenge.

The Wildcats will out-rebound Mizzou and score more points in the paint, but the Tigers’ defense will once again prove to be the hero. Kentucky has faced a plethora of talented programs, but none have the ability to create havoc quite like Mizzou.

Gholston, Honor, East II and Gomillion will need to grab at least one steal apiece, and contributions will have to come via the bench as well.

Unlike the kansas defeat, however, the Tigers will use the crowd to their advantage and, despite a valiant effort from Oscar Tshiebwe, will overcome the Wildcats’ other role players en route to a thrilling one-possession victory.