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Live Game Thread: Tigers and Tide set to square off in T-Town

Mizzou will hit the road for a date with a high-powered Alabama squad.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Kentucky Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri 75 | Alabama 93

Final


1st Half Notes

  • Bates opens the scoring with a nice floater at the shot clock buzzer, but Grant Nelson knocks down a smooth-looking 3-pointer in response.
  • Sean East II with the smoothest step-back he’s ever knocked down. Tigers are making some tough shots early, which is exactly what they needed to do to stay in this game.
  • Alabama knocks down 3-pointers. It’s what they do. A hand in their face can only do so much. With how hot Bama has been as of late and appears to be thus far, Mizzou’s only hope of staying in this game is to shoot it at an astronomical level as well.
  • Can’t deny that this Mizzou team is still playing hard. On a three-game losing streak and having lost a player today, this group is showing so signs of rolling over.
  • Jesus Carralero Martin with probably his first fast-break bucket of the season. Solid finish over a contesting defender.
  • Not Mizzou focused, but the control and pace that Mark Sears plays at is remarkable. He looks incredibly comfortable in year two under Oats and is clearly a guy that the staff has blind confidence in, for good reason.
  • Mabor Majak into the game now along with Aidan Shaw and Anthony Robinson II.
  • Robinson gets into it with a Bama player after both held on to a loose ball. Both teams were sent to their benches.
  • 6:54 (24-15 Alabama): The graphic says it all. 5-for-5 to start, 2-for-12 since. Cold stretches continue to plague this Missouri team.
  • Jordan Butler now into the game as a dozen Tigers have seen the floor.
  • Shades of Lob City from the Crimson Tide right now. They may not be Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, but Alabama is taking advantage of some poor pick-and-roll defense from Mizzou.
  • Sears now heads into the locker room with an injury. The SEC’s leading scorer has only scored two points on the night, although Bama’s offense still hasn’t missed a beat.
  • Robinson with an incredibly strong take to the rim where he finished amongst a trio of trees. The freshman seems to be settling into the SEC tonight.
  • A late-half run from Mizzou has cut the Tide advantage to just six. It was nearly four if Bates could have stayed inbounds on that steal attempt.
  • Overall, you can’t say that this team is getting blatantly outplayed every time it steps on the floor. As is the case with this game, it’s really only or two trends per game that are holding this Mizzou team back.
  • Can’t even put into words how difficult that shot from Bates was to close the half. A jumper from Honor makes its just a two-point game the break. How the tables have turned.

2nd Half Notes

  • Great to see that Nick Honor has appeared to find his shooting stroke again.
  • Really crafty stuff from Robinson to keep that ball by the floor, waiting on someone to reach for it, and then as soon they did, he went up to shoot. Two free throws is the result.
  • Grant Nelson gets a technical after he talked trash to Robinson following a block. East knocks down a pair off of it.
  • 12:48 (Bama 53-47): Nelson gets it back with a dunk, and the Tide then forced a shot clock violation and Sears knocked down a 3-pointer. Momentum has swung fully back in the home team’s favor.
  • More scrappiness, this time from Bates again fighting for a loose ball. Gotta love the fight this team is showing, that “competitive emotion” remark from Dane Bradshaw sums it up perfectly.
  • Major swing play. Carreleron Martin had a breakaway opportunity but had his attempt altered from behind, and the Tide drew a foul on the other end. Could have been a two point game, now the deficit is six.
  • Sean East II is doing a great job to direct Tigers around the floor so Carter can have free reign of one side.
  • 6:19 (Alabama 68-58): A pair of 3-pointers from Griffen allow Bama to take a commanding lead late in the game.
  • Tigers get a stop down six, but nobody boxes out Grant Nelson and he gets an easy put-back.
  • Griffen is unconscious from deep. Gotta tip your hat.
  • Carralero Martin fouls out of this game.

Pregame Updates

  • Honor, East, Bates, Carter and Vanover are your starters.

5 Fan Questions:

  1. Who will lead the team in scoring?
  2. How many blocks will the Tigers record?
  3. How many 3-pointers will Tamar Bates hit?
  4. Will Noah Carter or Aidan Shaw have more rebounds?
  5. Who will be the surprise star of the day?

Lastly, drop your game predictions and MVPs down below.


Tonight’s Preview

For Mizzou’s second road trip of the conference season, the Tigers will take on Alabama in the two sides’ lone meeting of the season.

The Crimson Tide have been one of the more intriguing teams in college basketball thus far. Wins over Oregon, Liberty, South Carolina and Mississippi State were promising, and the Bama offense ranks among the best in college basketball. But, they have also dropped games to Ohio State, Clemson, Purdue, Creighton and Arizona, in large part due to some porous defense.

The talent is not the question, as Bama has a roster that rivals that of CBB’s blue bloods. It is the team’s commitment to the defensive end that will determine if they can end up being among the top teams in the SEC or if this season may be a drop-off for Nate Oats and Co.

The Tigers have stumbled to an 0-3 start in SEC play. The 75-68 loss to Georgia was tough to swallow and the defeat at Rupp was an expected albeit promising result. The 71-69 overtime defeat at the hands of South Carolina was heartbreaking and yet another sign that this team is so close yet so far when it comes to being a contender in this league.

Last year, Alabama walked into Mizzou Arena and dismantled an upset-minded Tiger squad to a tune of 85-64 during the regular season. Dennis Gates’ team fought harder in the SEC Tournament Championship, but the Tide still came out on top in a 72-61 victory.

Missouri has the offensive firepower to hang with the Crimson Tide, but it will require more than some hot shooting to walk out of Tuscaloosa with a win that could change the outlook of the season.


Game Info

Time: 6:00 p.m. CST

Date: January 16, 2023

Location: Coleman Coliseum, Tuscaloosa, Al.

TV: SEC Network


The Starters

Mizzou

PG: Nick Honor (Grad, 10.3 PPG)
SG: Sean East II (Grad, 17.1 PPG)
SF: Tamar Bates (JR, 10.8 PPG)
PF: Aidan Shaw (SOPH, 3.8 PPG)
C: Noah Carter (Grad, 12.8 PPG)

Notable Sixth Man: Connor Vanover (Grad, 4.4 PPG)

Alabama

PG: Mark Sears (SR, 20.3 PPG)
SG: Aaron Estrada (SR, 13.0 PPG)
SF: Rylan Griffen (SOPH, 9.8 PPG)
PF: Grant Nelson (SR, 12.7 PPG)
C: Nick Pringle (SR, 5.0 PPG)

Notable Sixth Man: Latrell Wrigtsell Jr. (SR, 6.9 PPG)

*These are projected starters. Also, in today’s college basketball, positions rarely mean much. Those are included purely for perspective on what matchups on the court may look like.


NCAA Basketball: Morehead State at Alabama Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Get To Know Alabama

The Coach: Nate Oats was named the Alabama head coach in March of 2019 after spending four seasons at the University of Buffalo. Oats guided the Bulls to a 96-43 record during his tenure as well as three MAC Tournament Championships and, subsequently, three NCAA Tournament berths. The highlight was a 2018-19 campaign in which the Bulls finished with a 32-4 record.

Prior to his stint with Buffalo, Oats was a legendary and highly-successful coach at Romulus High School in Michigan. He led Romulus to a 222-52 record over 11 seasons, winning a state title in 2012-13 and seven-straight conference championships.

The Season Thus Far: It’s been an up-and-down campaign for the Crimson Tide this season, which can be expected against perhaps the nation’s toughest non-conference schedule.

They scored at least 98 points in each of their first four games against lesser competition, but they were then humbled by Ohio State in a 92-81 loss. The defensive struggles continued in a 99-91 win over a solid Oregon team, an 85-77 home loss to Clemson during the ACC/SEC Challenge, a 92-86 loss to Purdue, an 85-82 defeat against Creighton and finally an 87-74 defeat against Arizona.

They took down a quality Liberty squad to close non-con play, and the Crimson Tide have carried that momentum into conference play. Alabama took down Vanderbilt on the road before dismantling an upstart South Carolina squad in Tuscaloosa. On Saturday, Oats’ bunch held on to a large lead in Starkville to pick up a high-quality road win.

The Key Stats: It’s all gas, no brakes for Alabama on offense. The Tide rank top 40 in adjusted offensive efficiency, effective FG %, offensive rebound %, 3-point %, 2-point % and free throw %. As a result, this team has scored 80+ points in a dozen of its games. The Crimson Tide share the ball well, but they also have some incredible individual talents that can score on their own if need be. Thus, this offense is as versatile as it is dynamic.

Of course, as I’ve mentioned, this team is very one-sided. They’ve also allowed 80 or more points on seven occasions, and they rank in the bottom half of the nation in generating turnovers per possession. Teams can generally get what they want against Alabama, although Oats’ team does rank 96th with a block percentage of 11%. And, as it tends to happen, conference has inspired stronger defensive performances from every team, including Bama.

Alabama is also 5-5 against Quads 1 and 2, while the Crimson Tide are 6-0 against Quads 3 and 4.

The Stars: Individually, this team has some high-caliber players. Mark Sears is the face of the offense, as he’s exploded to lead the team in scoring and adds on 4.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game in his second year down south. Sears transferred in from Ohio prior to the ‘22-23 campaign, and he’s become a deadly sharpshooter that can heat up at a moment’s notice. On top of that, he’s got a great handle, a quick first step and creates for his teammates frequently. The Tide offense starts and stops with him.

North Dakota State transfer Grant Nelson was perhaps the biggest win of the offseason for Oats, and he’s been the matchup nightmare that everybody thought he could be. At 6-foot-11, Nelson is shooting 44.4% from the floor and can score at all three levels. However, he has struggled a bit from deep, shooting it at 26.2% from that range.

Aaron Estrada forms a dynamic backcourt duo alongside Sears, and he’s had a unique career path in his own right. Estrada began his career at Saint Peter’s, then transferred to Oregon for the 2020-21 season but played minimally. He then found himself at Hostra, where he became a prolific and efficient scorer for the Pride, leading them to back-to-back 20-win seasons. Now, he’s still a key offensive contributor but also leads the Tide in steals with 25 on the season.


3 Keys To The Game

  1. Adapt to Alabama’s pace

Shouldn’t be too hard considering Mizzou is a team that likes to get up and down the floor and put up plenty of shots, right?

Well, that can always change on the road, especially in a hostile environment like Coleman Coliseum. The Crimson Tide will knock their fair share of shots down, and if the Tigers aren’t able to match that shooting, then it might be a long day in T-Town. Illinois and Kentucky are similarly constructed teams that overwhelmed the Tigers with their athleticism and size in the open floor.

Moral of the story: Don’t get shell-shocked by the environment and don’t get completely caught up in playing to Alabama’s style.

2. Turnovers are key

In an offensive-centric game like this one will likely be, extra possessions can mean everything. Mizzou did well in contests against Minnesota and Wichita State in creating live-ball turnovers that resulted in easy buckets on the other end.

But, that is not always a given, as we saw in the Kansas game:

“We have to be able to come away with at least 16 points on 16 turnovers, and we weren’t able to do that,” Gates said. “Those things stand out when you look at where you can steal possessions.”

This game may get to a point where each team is red-hot. If that’s the case, then holding onto the ball when you have it and taking it away from the other side will prove to be the difference. Simple.

3. Avoid the cold stretches

They’ve plagued this team all season long, and if there’s any game where it can’t happen, it’s this one. A scoreless two or three minute period for Mizzou may result in Alabama going on a game-breaking 10-0 run with how quickly that offense can score. The Tigers need to play 40 minutes of clean, efficient offensive basketball in order to have a shot.

“We were up three on UGA, and then they had a 9-0 run,” Gates said. “They didn’t look back, and we missed six of our last seven field goals, and we have to come away with a foul or basket.”


NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Kentucky Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Game Prediction

KenPom Prediction: Alabama 89 | Missouri 72

My Prediction: Alabama 85 | Missouri 76

The non-conference slate was up-and-down and left much to be desired. The beginning to the SEC campaign has been gut-wrenching and disappointing.

Luckily, college basketball is a sport of immense highs and lows, and the hope is that these Tigers have hit their low point. The high could certainly come with a win in Tuscaloosa.

This is one of the tougher games on Mizzou’s conference schedule purely because of the venue and the challenges that Alabama presents for a defense. If the Tigers can get some extra possessions through turnovers and shoot it at a high-level, then they should be in a game that comes down to the final minutes.

The key will lie in how Mizzou responds to the inevitable Alabama runs and stretches of hot shooting. Gates and Co. will likely face a double-digit deficit at some points in this game; it’s how they respond to those deficits that will determine if they are able to walk out of Tuscaloosa with a win.

“I’m proud of my guys for not getting deflated after any loss at all this season,” Gates said. “I’ve always encouraged my guys to play with confidence.”

In the end, I see the Tide being able to shoot their way to a victory in a back-and-forth affair.