Long Beach State (4-9) at (25) Missouri (11-1)
01/04/2014 7:57 AM
01/04/2014 8:02 AM
GAME NOTES: In a final tune up in non-conference play, the 25th-ranked Missouri Tigers will welcome the Long Beach State 49ers to Mizzou Arena on Saturday afternoon.
LBSU has gotten off to a streaky start this season. After winning its season opener, the 49ers fell into a tailspin with nine straight losses, only to rebound with their current three-game winning streak. They most recently bested Nevada on the road on Dec. 28, 80-77 in overtime.
After a 10-0 start, Missouri suffered its first loss of the season on Dec. 21 on a neutral floor to Illinois, 65-64, but it was able to bounce back nicely with a 68-64 road win at NC State on Dec. 28. The Tigers have been unbeatable at Mizzou Arena of late. They are 7-0 in Columbia this season, and their 25- game home winning streak dating back to the 2011-12 campaign is the longest active streak in the nation.
Missouri has won both previous meetings with LBSU, although the last matchup came all the way back in November of 1986.
Trailing Nevada late in the regulation of its most recent game, LBSU forced overtime on a Mike Caffey 3-pointer at the buzzer and managed to shoot 5-of-6 from the free-throw line in the extra session to help seal its fate in the three-point victory. Although it shot just 37 percent from the field on the night, it was aided greatly by winning the turnover battle, 18-9. Caffey shined in the victory, with his game-tying bucket going towards a 26-point effort, while also adding six rebounds, five assists and three steals for good measure. Tyler Lamb pitched in 17 points, A.J. Spencer scored 10 points and Dan Jennings tallied nine points and nine rebounds.
On the season, the 49ers are outperformed by their opponents on a fairly consistent basis, as they shoot just 40.1 percent from the floor for 67.3 ppg while allowing 74.9 ppg on 44.6 percent shooting. They don't help their cause at the free-throw line (.626) or beyond the arc (.276) either. Mike Caffey scores 17.5 ppg and also gets his teammates involved with 4.2 apg. Lamb, a former UCLA product, has played in just three games this season but has been a huge boost (22.0 ppg) and, perhaps not coincidentally, the team is 3-0 with him in the lineup. Jennings is a reliable presence in the paint, sporting 11.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg and more than a block and a steal per contest.
Missouri was in for a hard-fought battle at NC State in its latest contest, but after trailing by as many as 10 in the second half, it climbed back to take the lead for good on a Jabari Brown 3-pointer with under a minute remaining and finished the Wolfpack off by shooting 5-of-6 from the free-throw in the final 20 seconds. Although it was a modest offensive output overall (.404 FG percentage), Jordan Clarkson was stellar as usual with 21 points. Brown finished with 17 points, Earnest Ross logged a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds, while Johnathan Williams put up 10 points.
The Tigers, unsurprisingly, have shined on both ends of the floor this season, outshooting their opponents from the field, 48.6 percent to 38.6 percent, for a +11.3 scoring margin. They are also one of the nation's better rebounding teams, grabbing just shy of 40 boards per game for a +9.0 margin. In his first season with Missouri since transferring from Tulsa, Clarkson has stepped into the role of go-to scorer, posting 20.0 ppg on 50 percent from the field and 86.8 percent from the foul line. Brown (18.1 ppg) is an outstanding second option, draining 32 3-pointers at a 41.6 percent clip, while Ross adds 13.8 ppg and 6.4 rpg.
LBSU has been playing much better of late and appears to be a much different team with Lamb in uniform, but it's still not good enough to topple Missouri at Mizzou Arena. Expect the Tigers' nation-long home winning streak to continue.
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