Missouri (8-12, 0-7 Southeastern Conference) returns home after a two-game road trip to face Arkansas (10-10, 1-6) for the first time this season. This past Saturday, the Tigers suffered their seventh consecutive loss with a 72-64 loss to South Carolina.
The series between the Tigers and Razorbacks predates MU’s time in the SEC as Norm Stewart and Nolan Richardson’s squads played a series of matchups in the 80’s and 90’s. The two teams also frequently matched up in the 50s and 60s as well. All time, Arkansas leads the series 33-27.
Last season, Mizzou fell in Fayetteville 74-68 before picking up a 79-76 victory at home. Like MU, Arkansas has struggled this season in SEC play, so both teams are going into Wednesday’s matchup looking for momentum.
As always, Dennis Gates was made available to the media, and this week’s player inclusion was Sean East II, the Tigers' leading scorer this season.
On the Tigers rivalry with Arkansas: “It’s a great rivalry. It’s a great game that should always be played. It’s a game that I believe excites our fanbase. It excites our tradition. It excites our former players because they get to go down memory lane and reminisce a little bit on their time playing against Arkansas.”
On Arkansas’ strengths: “Arkansas is one of the best shot-blocking teams in our conference. They do a good job in protecting the rim. They do a good job in protecting the rim.”
“Rebounding is a strength for them, meaning second-chance points and opportunities.
“Free throw percentage is another. They have games where they shot over their average of 71% so that’s a strength.”
On the Razorbacks being able to capitalize where MU struggles: “Arkansas is also very good at drawing fouls. They are one of the top teams in our conference, and top five in the country in free throw attempts per game. I think they’re close to 30. So that’s one of the things that’s been a sore spot for us in terms of trying to get to the line, but Arkansas is one of the teams in the top of the country in doing that.”
On Arkansas’ ability to fire behind the arc: “Because you look at the stats, they’re a 31% 3-point shooting team. I think that stat is misleading. I think they are a better 3-point shooting team when you look at the individual stats of their guys they were able to put on this roster this year.”
On what the Tigers need to do to ensure victory: “We got to do those small things. You can’t win the game at the jump ball in center court once the game starts, but you got to do those things over the duration of the game that allows you to end up on top.”
“We can’t have those fouls 95 feet away from the basket, but it counts against us whether it’s putting them on the line for the double bonus or just the bonus, and gets them an opportunity to be more aggressive than our half-court defense, and we don’t want to put ourselves in that situation.”
“We got to do a better job in containing the dribble, contesting shots without fouling but also being able to execute what we need to execute.”
On Jordan Butler: “You got Jordan Butler, who earned a starting spot; now we just got to get him consistent. He’s been doing those things; again, he was our highest-graded defender. Last game, he did a tremendous job. We have to get him more comfortable on the offensive end to know when and what shots to be taken.”
Sean East II
On the Tigers' seven-game losing streak: “We’re not thinking about the streak. We’re thinking about just going out there, playing hard, and fighting for that one.”
On what needs to done to ensure victory: “Just 40 minutes, going out there and playing hard and just executing what coach is asking. We got a little new saying, Phoenix five, we’ve got five things that we focus on, so just focusing on those five things. We just got to do it for the duration of the full game.”
On Arkansas: “They’re versatile. They have good guards, long and athletic. They got some bangers inside. They play hard, and they’re a gritty team. They’re always good. It’s going to be a good game.”
What stood out playing Arkansas last season: “Just the amount of energy that goes into it. They have a former Mizzou player on there. Its kind of back and forth a little bit. It was chippy there. It’s going to be chippy here. I think we were down ten last year at home, and we came back and won, so it’s going to come down to the wire, and it’s going to be a hard-fought game.”
On Tamar Bates: “I’m seeing him get comfortable to the coaching staff and with us. He transferred, so sometimes it takes a while for transfers to get settled in. I think he’s settling into his role and getting comfortable each and every day.”
On Jordan Butler: “It’s been a long process. He’s a freshman. We want him to be a junior or senior right now. We’re asking a lot of him. He’s accepting all of it. It’s going to be hard for him. Its his freshman, and he’s growing. It’s been amazing watching him grow from his first time stepping on campus to now. His final product, sky’s the limit for him.”
Trent Pierce - Will be a game-time decision.