What to watch for: Mizzou vs. Baylor

Mizzou will have to rely on Phil Pressey and the rest of the first-year Tigers if they want to take down Baylor at home. (Photo by Nick Gerhardt)

Hot off their first conference road win of the season, the 21-6 Tigers look to continue their solid play against a tough Baylor team. With a win Wednesday, Mizzou (ranked No. 20 in the most recent poll), could extend its home win streak to 17 games on the season. The motivation for the Tigers to remain unbeaten is a chance to climb into third place in the Big 12 and head into the final home game of the season, against rival Kansas, unbeaten at home. With the Bears looking to play the toughest game Mizzou has seen at home this season, here’s what to watch for at Mizzou Arena on Wednesday night:

  • LaceDarius Dunn can make or break you. Dunn leads the Bears in scoring by a wide margin, averaging 20.8 points per game––good for 6.5 points more than his closest teammate, Perry Jones. However, he shoots the ball like crazy. He has taken almost 100 more shots than anyone else on the team, a big reason why his shooting percentage only ranks sixth on a pretty weak shooting team. He’s also prone to turnovers, averaging 3.5 per game. If the Tigers can pressure him, both on the dribble and on the shot, they can take away a big part of the Baylor offense.
  • Tigers on the run. According to KenPom.com, the Bears are one of the slower teams in the league in terms of game tempo. Baylor’s 66.5 tempo score gives them a ranking of 186th in the NCAA, while Mizzou’s 72.3 has them checking in at 16th nationally. The Tigers love to play fast at home, and they can run Baylor out of the gym if they play up-tempo basketball for at least the first half.
  • New kids on the court. When the Tigers fell to Baylor in Waco last year on a last second tip-in, only two current Tigers were in the starting lineup. This year’s new cast, which includes budding star Phil Pressey and key post man Ricardo Ratliffe, bring a whole different look to this Mizzou team. The added quickness and ball handling skill brings a new dimension to a team that lacked a bit in that department with guys like Ramsey, Tiller and Taylor on the floor. Also, we could see a nice performance from Laurence Bowers, as he was able to come off the bench and score 10 against the Bears last year. With him in the starting lineup on Wednesday, that production could increase if he can find a way around the 6-11 Jones.

Aside from the pivotal game against Kansas looming next weekend, this will be one of the biggest games at Mizzou Arena this season. If the Tigers can stay focused on the game at hand, they could be looking at an 8-5 conference record and, if Texas A&M stumbles at home against Oklahoma, third place in the Big 12 heading into the last three games of the season.

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