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Live Game Thread: Mizzou looks for its fifth victory over Illinois in six years

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Tiger basketball, but the ship can be righted with a rivalry win over a top 20 Illinois squad.

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

Missouri 73 | Illinois 97

Final


1st Half Notes

  • Noah Carter with a nice right-handed hook shot to start things off. A great sign for a guy that has been somewhat struggling as of late.
  • Terrence Shannon Jr. is showing that he is not afraid to go right at Mizzou’s smaller guards in the open floor. Tigers will have to adjust to that, focusing on not letting him get a head of steam.
  • Connor Vanover into the game, but Trent Pierce remains on the floor after a solid start. Also haven’t truly seen Sean East II get involved on the offensive end.
  • East hits a 3-pointer, but the Illini are still controlling the tempo and shot quality on both ends.
  • 1st Media Timeout (15:06): Illinois has played this game at the pace Mizzou usually forces its opponents to play at. Illinois’ superior athletes have proven to be the difference.
  • Tigers can’t buy a bucket in any regard, while Shannon Jr. continues to attack in transition when given any sliver of an opportunity. Somebody has to spark the offense for Mizzou.
  • Dennis Gates with a well-drawn play coming out of the timeout to get Aidan Shaw a dunk.
  • Shannon Jr. is feeling it right now, 4-for-6 from the floor and playing some great defense. Tigers have responded with some higher quality shots on the other end, but Illinois is continuing to create favorable matchups in transition.
  • Noah Carter with a high-effort play to steal away an offensive rebound.
  • Coleman Hawkins was shooting at 23.3% from 3-point land coming into this game. He’s 2-for-4 right now.
  • Third Media Timeout (8:01): Curt Lewis with a powerful drive in transition to earn an and-one. He follows that up with another solid take to the rim, seemingly gaining confidence by the possession.
  • Hawkins hits another, while the Tigers are 1-for-13 from behind the arc.
  • Simply put, Illinois is making creative, efficient offensive plays. Missouri is not. The shot quality is starkly different.
  • This game is entering a truly intense point. Mizzou is aiming to force its way back into this game by any means, while Illinois is attempting to make the lead insurmountable.
  • Noah Carter the lone bright spot with 6 points and 5 boards, but he’s hampered by a pair of fouls.
  • A lot of the looks from the floor haven’t even been that bad. Tigers are just missing some shots that they usually make.

2nd Half Notes

  • Trent Pierce with back-to-back and-ones off of some high-effort plays. He’s been playing his best ball of the season in the past two games.
  • Tiger offense has begun to find more of a rhythm, but the team now has to find a way to get some stops. Illinois may look to get to the line a lot this half.
  • Sean East II with a classic circus shot, he’s not into double-figures. It’ll take a Herculean effort from someone like him for Mizzou to get back into this game.
  • Mizzou just can’t seem to mount any form of a run, as nobody appears to be helping East on the offensive end. Illinois is in full command of this game.
  • Terrence Shannon Jr. with a move that welcomes Anthony Robinson II to the rivalry.
  • Aidan Shaw picks up a fourth foul and heads to the bench at the 12:55 mark.
  • Have to credit Anthony Robinson II for a strong take to the rim in the open floor, earning tow free throws.
  • And yeah I’m gonna write about Robinson again. He comes up with a steal and easy dunk. Safe to say he’s settled in and yet again is flashing his potential.
  • A rare Jesus Carrelro Martin 3-pointer cuts the Illini lead to under 20 for the first time in a while. This comes at the 10:42 mark.
  • Second Media Timeout (7:26): If Illinois gets to the double bonus with over five minutes left, that’d be tough for Mizzou to overcome.
  • Sean East II still playing hard, finding his way to the rim through defenders.
  • East picks up a flagrant one by grabbing Guerrier on his way up to the rim.
  • Illinois dominated nearly every statistical aspect of this game, and visually it looked like it. Gut check time for this Tiger team as it enters SEC play.

Pregame Updates

  • Starters for tonight: Tamar Bates, Nick Honor, Sean East II, Trent Pierce (first start), Noah Carter.

5 Fan Questions:

  1. Who will lead the team in scoring?
  2. How many blocks will Aidan Shaw have?
  3. Who will lead the team in rebounds?
  4. How many steals will the Tigers record?
  5. Who will be the surprise star of the day?

Lastly, drop your game predictions and MVPs down below.


Today’s Preview

After a disappointing 93-87 loss to Seton Hall at the T-Mobile Center, Missouri heads east for the 41st installment of the annual Braggin’ Rights series against No. 13 Illinois. The Fighting Illini lead the all-time series 33-20, but since 2009 it’s been in Missouri’s favor with an 8-6 advantage. The Tigers’ season so far has had its ups and downs, defeating Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Wichita State, while falling to Jackson State, Kansas, Memphis and more recently, the Pirates of the Big East. With NCAA Tournament aspirations still a realistic possibility, this is a massive game for the black and gold. Last season, Missouri put on a show from start to finish against the Fighting Illini, coming away with a 93-71 victory.


Game Info

Time: 8:00 PM CT

Date: Friday, Dec. 21, 2023

Location: Enterprise Center, St. Louis, MO

TV: Fox Sports 1


The Starters

Mizzou

G: Nick Honor (Grad, 12.5 PPG)

G: Sean East II (Grad, 17.1 PPG)

F: Aidan Shaw (Soph., 2.9 PPG)

F: Noah Carter (Grad, 11.7 PPG)

F: Tamar Bates (Jr, 8.5 PPG)

Notable Sixth Man: C: Connor Vanover (Grad, 4.6 PPG)

Illinois

G: Terrence Shannon Jr. (Grad, 20.9 PPG)

F: Coleman Hawkins (Sr, 8.1 PPG)

F: Marcus Domask (Grad, 11.8 PPG)

F: Quincy Guerrier (Grad, 8.7 PPG)

F: Ty Rogers (Soph., 5.7 PPG)

Notable Sixth Man: F: Dain Dainja (Jr, 7.7 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.


Illinois v Arkansas Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Get to know Illinois

Illinois head coach Brad Underwood has been on the opposing sidelines of Mizzou dating all the way back to his playing days. After playing at Hardin-Simmons and Independence Community College his freshman and sophomore seasons, he transferred to Kansas State, averaging 11.7 minutes and 2.7 points per game for the Wildcats from 1984-86.

Right after his playing days were over, he jumped right into the coach ranks. His first head coaching job came in 2003 where he took the reins of Daytona Beach and guided the Falcons to a 70-25 record in three seasons. In 2006, he returned to Manhattan, Kansas where he became an assistant under Bob Huggins, Bruce Webber, and Frank Martin, before leaving with Martin to go to South Carolina.

His stay in the other Columbia lasted just a year before taking his first Division I coaching job at Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks saw quick success with Underwood, going 89-14 and 53-1 in conference play. Underwood’s Lumberjacks reached the round of 32 twice, first beating fifth-seeded VCU in San Diego and the second coming two years later with a 14-point upset victory over three-seed West Virginia.

The success in Nacodoches, Texas led to a Power Six opportunity at Oklahoma State as Underwood replaced Travis Ford (I guess you could say a former Tiger). He led the Cowboys to a 20-win campaign for the 2016-17 season, but a murky exit that saw OSU later get hit with NCAA violations was a bit of a forgettable memory. That led Underwood to Champaign, Illinois for the 2017-18 season.

After two below .500 seasons, Underwood revived the Fighting Illini helping them reach the NCAA Tournament in 2021 for the first time in eight seasons. That was followed by another appearance in 2022 and more recently in 2023. Underwood has brought back winning at Illinois but his record against Mizzou the past six seasons is 2-4.

NCAA Basketball: Colgate at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois began this season in the Top 25 and has slowly crept its way near the Top 15. The Fighting Illini lost to a tough Marquette team at home but defeated Florida Atlantic 98-89 at Madison Square Garden before losing to Tennessee. Most recently, the Illini defeated Colgate 74-57 on Sunday to improve to 8-2.

Underwood’s Illini rank in the top 30 according in KenPom’s adjusted offensive (28th) and defensive efficiency (13th). Defensively, their effective field goal percentage ranks third in the nation, and their Division 1 experience and height rank 16th and 12th in the country, respectively. With their height, their rebounding margin (10) ties for 13th.

Terrence Shannon Jr., who scored 22 points against Mizzou last year, is back and is enjoying his most productive scoring season yet. He’s averaging 20.7 points per game for the Illini, and against FAU he dropped 33 points, three days after scoring 23 and adding 10 rebounds at Rutgers.

NCAA Basketball: Colgate at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Illini’s only other double-digit per game scorer arrived this season through the transfer portal. Underwood looked in-state at Southern Illinois to get Marcus Domask, who was an All-MVC player in three of his four seasons with the Salukis. He’s shown up in big games for Illinois, scoring 18 against Marquette, 15 vs. Rutgers, 33(!!!) against FAU and 15 in their most recent game against Colgate.

Quincy Guerrier spent a pair of seasons at Syracuse and Oregon before coming to Champaign. The 6-foot-7 forward currently leads Illinois with 6.7 rebounds per game, and in their loss to Tennessee, he tallied 22 points on 50% shooting. He led the ACC in rebounds during the 2020-21 season, earning All-third team conference honors.

Like Shannon, Coleman Hawkins played Mizzou last season but was limited to just four points. He’s a better player than we saw against the Tigers, averaging 8.1 points, 28 in his previous two games combined, and 5.7 boards per game. Dain Dainja is averaging 7.7 points (nine against Mizzou last season) and 4.8 rebounds, while Luke Goode, a junior guard, is giving the Illini valuable minutes off the bench.


3 Keys to the Game

NCAA Basketball: Seton Hall at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
  1. We need you, Noah Carter

This past Sunday in Kansas City, Mizzou scored 87 points, the second-highest scoring total by this team this season. But, not knowing the box score, imagine hearing that and someone then tells you it all happened with Noah Carter making just one of 12 shots from the field. Carter, one of the key veteran pieces of this team, has struggled lately from the floor. He scored just nine against Seton Hall, seven at Kansas, and just nine more against Wichita State. His versatile skillset is fun to watch when he is on, but his absence from this offense has been disappointing and this team needs him to come out and shoot the ball well.

2. Protect that 3-point line

While Missouri made a dozen 3-pointers on Sunday, Seton Hall wasn’t that far behind with 10. This was alarming because the Pirates aren’t known from being able to execute from behind the arc, but no one wouldn’t have been able to tell by watching the clinic they had in Kansas City. Like Seton Hall, Illinois isn’t a team that excels from 3-point land, but the Tigers’ defensive breakdowns can’t happen against or they’ll be in for another long night against a better team.

3. Take advantage of the back half of the first half

With under 10 minutes to go in Lawrence, Mizzou led KU 20-12. When the buzzer sounded for both teams to head back into the locker room, the Jayhawks led by 12. With under 12 minutes to play against Seton Hall, the Tigers led by three, but the Pirates proceeded to take the lead by as much as seven before heading into the break up 42-38. Once Mizzou made its lineup changes of getting Aidan Shaw and Tamar Bates in the starting five, they were getting off to the fast start they needed. They just now need to figure out a way to sustain that for the full first 20 minutes of play.


Game Prediction

KenPom Prediction: Illinois 79, Missouri 69

My Prediction: Missouri 75, Illinois 68

Good things have usually happened to Mizzou in this game the past five seasons. No one would’ve truly thought that the Tigers were going to blow Illinois out by 22 points last season. If we can take anything good from Sunday’s game against Seton Hall, it’s that Mizzou put up 87 points, shot 50% from behind the arc and got to the free throw line. Seton Hall is probably a better team than most people think as it just knocked off the defending national champs, Connecticut. Illinois is a good team, but Mizzou has a chance to redeem itself.