Battle Line Rivalry preview: For Missouri men’s basketball, containing Daniel Gafford and beating full court pressure will be the keys to victory.
In preparation for the Razorbacks’ constant pressure, the Tigers conditioned by running sprints up and down the court.
Jan. 23, 2019
When Missouri made the move from the Big 12 Conference to the Southeastern Conference prior to the 2012-13 school year, it left its Border War Rivalry against historical nemesis Kansas in favor of a new SEC Battle Line Rivalry with Arkansas.
Unlike its bad blood rivalry with KU, there isn’t a lot of animosity between universities. Prior to Missouri joining the conference, the biggest “uproar” between the two schools was when current Arkansas basketball coach Mike Anderson left MU to join the Razorbacks program in 2011.
As Missouri men’s basketball prepares to travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to renew the rivalry Wednesday against the Razorbacks, there is no extra motivation to win because of the Battle Line.
“I don’t know if I’d really consider [Arkansas] a rival,” senior forward Kevin Puryear said. “As far as bad blood and anything like that, I don’t really buy into that.”
Missouri (10-6, 1-3 SEC) is coming off a 23-point blowout victory at Texas A&M in which the team shot 48.1 percent and 40 percent from beyond the arc. Looking to continue the momentum, the Tigers will have their work cut out for them as they face a Razorback team known for its full court pressure.
In preparation for Arkansas’ defense, the Tigers ran end-to-end on the court 16 times before starting practice because, according to coach Cuonzo Martin, that will be how the first five minutes of Wednesday’s contest will be.
Senior guard Jordan Geist will also be put to the test against the pressure defense, but Martin has faith in the veteran.
“He’ll be prepared,” Martin said. “He knows what’s going on.”
Defensively, Missouri will look to limit the production of sophomore forward Daniel Gafford, who was named preseason first team All-SEC by coaches and media. In the Tigers’ loss last season in Fayetteville, Gafford had 15 points and six rebounds in 25 minutes.
“He’s just an athletic specimen,” Puryear said. “He dunks everything around the rim. His skill set has gotten a lot better and he’s developed in the offseason.”
Despite Gafford’s potential, Arkansas is still a young team. In its last game, Anderson’s starting five were all underclassmen. Taking advantage of the Razorbacks’ youth will be a key for Missouri.
“They’re talented, but they’re young,” Martin said. “We have to hope that the youth is on our side from the standpoint of them not making shots and turning the ball over.”
The first installment of the men’s basketball Battle Line Rivalry of 2019 will tip off at 8 p.m. CST on SEC Network.
Edited by Adam Cole | firstname.lastname@example.org