GAME NOTES: Having successfully returned from a trip to Las Vegas with an unblemished record, the Missouri Tigers put their undefeated mark on the line on Thursday evening, as they play host to the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mizzou Arena as part of the inaugural Big 12/SEC Challenge.
Frank Haith's Tigers made light work of the competition in Sin City last week, capped off by an 83-70 victory over Nevada in final-round action of the event. With the win, Missouri moved to 7-0 on the season and returns home where it has won 22 straight at Mizzou Arena.
Bob Huggins' Mountaineers are off to a fast start as well with six wins in eight games thus far. West Virginia's second loss of the season came against nationally-ranked Wisconsin (70-63) in the Cancun Challenge, but the team earned some distance from that setback with Monday's 96-47 rout of Loyola Maryland. The win was the 729th for Huggins, who moved into a tie with Jerry Tarkanian and Norm Stewart for 16th on the NCAA Division I all-time wins list.
These two teams have met just twice prior with each winning a game.
The Mountaineers delivered on a modes 43.2 percent from the floor against the Greyhounds, but scorched the nets from long range, knocking down 13-of-22 3- point attempts in the lopsided win. The team also dominated Loyola Maryland on the glass, outrebounding the Greyhounds by 40 caroms, 62-22. Five Mountaineers logged double digit scoring in the victory, led by junior Remi Dibo's 19 points in 23 minutes off the bench. Sophomore Terry Henderson also gave a valuable effort in a reserve capacity with 16 points in 19 minutes of action. Fellow sophomore Eron Harris (14 pts), junior Kevin Noreen (13 pts) and freshman Nathan Adrian (11 pts) were all heard from as well.
West Virginia has enjoyed great success at both ends of the floor, with a +18.6 scoring margin. The team is converting 49.2 percent of its shots, including a gaudy 46.5 percent from 3-point range (80-of-172) en route to a hefty 85.1 ppg. Harris has shot lights out in the early going, connecting on 52 percent of his 3-point attempts and leading the team with 20.3 ppg. Juwan Stewart can also fill up the basket (16.4 ppg), while leading the team in assists (7.5 apg). Dibo is another long-range sniper, hitting 48.8 percent from behind the arc and contributing 10.4 ppg. Freshman Devin Williams (10.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg) gives WVU a presence in the frontcourt and has three double- doubles on the year.
Balance has been the key to Missouri's season as well. The Tigers are shooting over 50 percent from the floor overall (.504) and putting up 80.6 ppg, all while limiting foes to just 65.1 ppg and under 40 percent accuracy from the field (.391). In addition, Missouri has enjoyed a +10.7 rebounding margin. Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown are a potent one-two punch at the offensive end of the floor, pouring in 19.4 and 19.3 ppg, respectively. Earnest Ross rounds out the top scoring threats on the roster with 13.4 ppg. Johnathan Williams III doesn't score much (7.3 ppg), but makes a big contribution on the glass (team-high 8.0 rpg).
Missouri jumped all over the Wolf Pack early on, shooting .520 from the floor in the first half, taking an 18-point lead into halftime (44-26). Despite cooling off after the break, the Tigers were able to keep their distance in the win. Ross led the way in the victory, going 7-of-14 from the floor and 12- of-13 from the free-throw line to tally 28 points. Brown just missed a double- double with 24 points and nine rebounds, while Clarkson continued the offensive onslaught with 21 points.
Missouri has a long win streak running at home and although West Virginia has the firepower to contend with any team in the nation, getting a win at Mizzou Arena is a tall task indeed.
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