clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

MBB Preview and Game Thread: StarkVegas awaits a surging Tiger team

Missouri appears to be playing their best basketball of the season right now. However, the Bulldogs may be as well.

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

Missouri 52 | Mississippi State 63


1st Half Notes

  • Missouri Starters: Nick Honor, Sean East II, D’Moi Hodge, Kobe Brown and Noah Carter
  • Mississippi State Starters: Shakeel Moore, Dashawn Davis, D.J. Jeffries, Tolu Smith and Cameron Matthews
  • MSU strikes first with a pair of free throws from Matthews.
  • Mizzou is 0-3 from 3-point range early. The Tigers have struggled on the road from behind the arc in conference play.
  • Noah Carter is at two fouls.
  • The Tigers call timeout as the Bulldogs jump out to an 8-1 lead. Efficiency has not materialized for Mizzou thus far.
  • No minutes for Mosley tonight. The Tigers have also yet to record a basket not via the free throw line.
  • Kobe Brown with Mizzou’s first basket.
  • Tolu Smith has five points for MSU.
  • Mosley checks in as does Mabor Majak.
  • Noah Carter up to three fouls.
  • Mizzou and Mississippi State continue to trade baskets. Majak just recorded his second foul as well.
  • Tempers flared slightly following a foul on D’Moi Hodge and this contest is featuring physicality on both sides.
  • MSU is on a 2:26 scoring drought, and Mizzou is within two points.
  • Kobe Brown knots the game up at 26 with a pair of free throws.
  • MSU is on a 7-0 run, taking control of the game as it nears halftime.
  • The Tigers have not made a field goal in nearly six minutes.
  • Mizzou is shooting 33.3% from the field, including a 9.1% mark from beyond the arc in a true dogfight.
  • Smith has 14 points for MSU, while DeAndre Gholston leads Mizzou with nine points.

2nd Half Notes

  • MSU out to a quick 5-0 start. The game appears to be getting out of hand for the visiting Tigers.
  • Mizzou is at a 7.7% mark from beyond the arc, and as we’ve seen from its past performances, that’s a tally that will not equate to victories.
  • Mizzou with a 5-0 run to cut the deficit to nine points.
  • Nick Honor with another 3-pointer. Six-point game.
  • MSU has quieted the response, but Davis is issued a technical foul in a scuffle.
  • The Bulldogs continue to impose their will, holding Mizzou without a field goal for nearly five minutes.
  • Matthews with an exclamation point slam.
  • Diarra is issued a Flagrant 1 foul.
  • Mizzou drops another SEC road contest, struggling from the field and 3-point range. The Tigers scored their fewest points of the season in the loss.

Pregame Updates

5 Fan Questions:

  1. Who will lead the team in scoring?
  2. How many three-pointers will D’Moi Hodge hit?
  3. Will Mizzou have over or under 15 assists?
  4. How many rebounds will Kobe Brown have?
  5. How many points will Isiaih Mosley have?

Lastly, drop your game predictions and MVPs down below.

Riding the high of a three-game winning streak, Mizzou travels to Starkville to take on a Mississippi State (14-8, 2-7) team that is looking to mount a second-half rally in SEC play.

The Bulldogs have had a rough go of it in conference play, with their only two wins coming against Ole Miss and South Carolina, the bottom two teams in the league. Still, they were ranked as high as No. 14 during the non-conference season and have plenty of talent. Chris Jans’ team is desperate for any form of quality win to right the ship and begin their climb back towards the right side of the bubble.

The Tigers rebounded from their shooting slump to reel off three straight wins over Ole Miss, Iowa State and LSU. The team shot lights out in every one of those contests and won each game by double-digits. With the emergence of some new faces into the rotation and an offense that looks like a well-oiled machine, Missouri looks like a team nobody would want to face in March.

First, Dennis Gates will be looking to pick up his second SEC road victory of the season, which is always easier said than done.

Game Info

When: Saturday, February 4

Where: Humphrey Coliseum, Starkville, MS

Time: 5:00 p.m. CST

TV: SEC Network

KenPom Win Probability: 38%

The Starters


PG: Nick Honor (Grad)

SG: D’Moi Hodge (Grad)

SF: Isiaih Mosley (SR)

PF: Kobe Brown (SR)

C: Noah Carter (SR)

Key Depth: DeAndre Gholston (Grad), Sean East II (SR), Aidan Shaw (FR)

Mississippi State

PG: Shakeel Moore (JR)

SG: Dashwan Davis (SR)

SF: Cameron Matthews (JR)

PF: D.J. Jeffries (SR)

C: Tolu Smith (SR)

Key Depth: Tyler Stevenson (F, Grad), Will McNair Jr. (F, SR), Eric Reed Jr. (G, Grad)

*These starters are projected based on past lineups and pregame updates.

NCAA Basketball: Texas Christian at Mississippi State Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Get To Know Mississippi State

The Bulldogs’ season can be told as a tale in two parts.

In non-conference play, MSU took the nation by storm. They jumped out to an 11-0 start with wins over Marquette and Utah to their name, earning them a No. 14 overall ranking in the AP Poll in early December.

Then, disaster struck. A loss to Drake to close non-conference play seemed to spell doom for this program. They opened up SEC play against Alabama and Tennessee (a brutal draw) and were trounced in both games. After beating rivals Ole Miss, the Bulldogs fell to Georgia, Auburn, Tennessee, Florida and Alabama.

Then, they rebounded to take down No. 11 TCU at home before beating South Carolina 66-51 on the road. Now with renewed life, the Bulldogs could pick up another quality win against Mizzou.

MSU is 3-8 against Quads 1 and 2 and 11-0 against Quads 3 and 4.

The struggles for Mississippi State in conference play largely stem from the offensive side. They have yet to score over 70 points in an SEC contest and have a 46.7 effective field percentage (322nd in the nation, via KenPom). Combine that with a 28.1% shooting clip from behind the arc and a 62.4% free throw shooting percentage, and you have a team that really struggles to put the ball in the basket.

Their one saving grace on offense is the glass. The Bulldogs reel in 35.8% of their misses, good for 15th in the nation.

For as hard-to-watch as their offense has been at times, their defense has kept them in nearly every game. They have the 10th best adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom, and they force a turnover on 23.6% of opponent’s possessions.

Opposing teams also only shoot 44.7% from inside the arc against them, and MSU has the third best steal percentage (14.5%) in the country.

Everything starts and stops with Tolu Smith on this team. The redshirt-senior forward averages 14.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, and he is just a true force in the painted area. At 6-foot-11 and with the post-moves Smith has in his arsenal, he figures to be in the NBA next season.

A major reason for the Bulldogs’ conference struggles has been their guard play. Dashawn Davis, Cameron Matthews, Tyler Stevenson and Eric Reed Jr have all struggled to score in conference play, putting a lot on the shoulders of Smith.

Junior guard Shakeel Moore has been the lone bright spot in the backcourt. He scored 15 against Georgia, 20 against Tennessee and 22 against South Carolina. This team will go as Moore takes them until the rest of their guards get back up to speed.

6-foot-11 redshirt senior Will McNair Jr. generally spells Smith down low.

3 Keys To The Game

  1. Containing Tolu Smith

It’s been at the top of the scouting report for every SEC team this season. Smith has continued his stellar play from last season and remains a leader on this team. His ability to carve out space down low and get to the rim with speed will challenge an undersized Missouri team (I think I’ve said “undersized” 200 times this season).

Brown, Carter and Diarra figure to rotate in guarding Smith, but it will be a full team effort to effectively double-team him in the post.

2. Spread the love

After recording only 35 assists over a rough four game span, the Tigers have racked up 51 in their recent three-game winning streak. This team plays its best when multiple players are touching the ball on every possession , and it allows everybody to get a chance to get hot. As a result, you see a combined six different players score in double-figures against Iowa State and LSU.

MSU has a solid defense, but it is nothing that Mizzou has not faced before against the likes of Iowa State and Texas A&M. The Tigers need to travel with their style of play like they did against Ole Miss. If they can do that, then this team should score 70 or more yet again. They haven’t lost in conference play when they’ve done that.

3. Maintaining momentum

This is a more obscure key, but momentum is a real thing. Missouri has a lot of it right now, but “the big Mo” is a finite thing that loves to shift back and forth between teams. My point: Missouri is due to cool off at some point. They shot mind-boggling percentages against Ole Miss, Iowa State and LSU, and that will not last.

Gates has to be prepared for the worst. If this team cools off in Starkville, will they just roll over and lose? Or will they prove that they can win in other ways? To win in March, you have to be able to win ugly and pretty. Missouri can do the latter, but they need to show that they can do the former.

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

Game Prediction

My Prediction: Missouri 75 | Mississippi State 71

KenPom Prediction: Mississippi State 73 | Missouri 70

For a team that sits within the broad umbrella of the bubble, this is very close to a must-win for MSU. While this may end up being a Quad 1 or 2 result for the Tigers, the Bulldogs are in much more desperate need of wins in that category. Winning on the road in the SEC is never easy, especially when you play a team that is getting hot.

The Tigers regained their shooting touch against Ole Miss, and it appeared to only strengthen their defense as well. That carried over to the Iowa State and LSU games, as the Missouri offense looks unguardable at times. And then, when shots fall, this team gets that much more aggressive on defense and in the open floor, blitzing opponents with a scoring flurry. That is easier to do at home than on the road, however.

To beat the Bulldogs this season, it has been pretty simple. Contain Smith as best you can, shoot a respectable percentage from the floor and don’t let the Bulldogs corral all of their misses. Do that, and this should be a comfortable road win for the Tigers.