The No. 11 Missouri basketball team will travel to the heart of the Lone Star State on Saturday to face the No. 7 Texas Longhorns.
Missouri sits at 17-3 after taking two straight at home over Kansas State and Iowa State. The Tigers will leave the comfort of Mizzou Arena and look to improve upon a 4-3 road record that includes an 0-2 tally in Big 12 away games.
The Longhorns are just the opposite, as they come off two consecutive conference road wins, including a monstrous upset at Allen Fieldhouse. Texas snapped a 69-game home winning streak for Kansas that was four years in the making.
“Texas is probably playing as good as anybody in the country,” Coach Mike Anderson said. “They went into one of the places where not many people have had success, and came out with the win after being down double figures. They’re one of the hotter teams in the country, not just in our league but in the country.”
Texas then travelled to Stillwater and stomped Oklahoma State to move to a perfect 5-0 in conference. They’ve also been nearly perfect inside the Erwin Center, posting a 13-2 home record this year. The two losses were narrow ones, both by a margin of two points or less.
Anderson acknowledges the strength of schedule for Texas in non-conference play, which included a trip to USC and a host of Connecticut.
“They’re battle-tested,” Anderson said. “They played some good teams early on and took a couple of bumps early on. To their credit, their kids have really responded in a positive way.”
The Tigers best chance at the upset might be to use depth to their advantage and wear down the Longhorn starters. Missouri boasts six players who go for at least 20 minutes per game and Anderson never fails to mention that he has eight or nine potential starters on his roster.
Texas is once again the opposite, basically using four players to get the job done every game. Four Longhorns play over 30 minutes per game while the Tigers have just one in junior guard Marcus Denmon. The Texas bench averages just over 10 points per contest to Missouri’s 25.
Sophomore guard Jordan Hamilton is one of the reasons that the Longhorns can win games with just a handful of guys. The 6-foot 7-inch Hamilton serves as both guard and forward, but no matter where he plays he’s putting up numbers. The sophomore is averaging a team-high 19.5 points as well as 2.6 three-pointers and 7.2 rebounds per game.
Joining Hamilton in the Texas arsenal are some fellow underclassmen in freshman forward Tristan Thompson and freshman guard Cory Joseph. Thompson leads the team in rebounding (7.6 per game) and blocks (2.2) while Joseph mans the backcourt with a team-leading 3.1 assists per game.
With three of the four leading scorers for Texas being underclassmen, and two of them freshman, one category the Longhorns lack is experience and age. But Anderson said he knows they make up for it with raw talent.
“They’re a young basketball team but a very talented team,” Anderson said. “They’re playing with a swagger it seems like. And they’ve been playing great at home. This will be the ultimate challenge.”
Tip off in Austin is set for 8 p.m. on Saturday. It will be the first of two Big 12 road games for the Tigers, as they will travel to Oklahoma State on Wednesday.