Keys to success for Missouri men’s basketball against Mississippi State

How the Tigers can break their five-game losing streak Saturday.

The Missouri men’s basketball team returns to Mizzou Arena on Saturday night looking to get off its current five-game skid against Southeastern Conference foe Mississippi State (8-11, 1-6 SEC).

The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. and can be viewed on the SEC Network. The Tigers (8-12, 1-6 SEC) should have an easier time on Saturday than they have had the past two games, in which the squad suffered defeats against No. 5 Texas A&M and No. 20 Kentucky.

These are the three things Missouri must do to break its losing streak against the Bulldogs:

Start Fast: The Tigers have suffered through slow starts in almost every game they have played this season.

On Wednesday, Missouri looked helpless as Kentucky jumped out to a 20-2 lead within the opening five minutes. The game was already over before most Tiger fans had the chance to reach for the remote and turn off the television.

Now, Mississippi State is no Kentucky. In fact, the Bulldogs have the exact same record in the SEC as Mizzou and they also endured a five-game losing streak of their own earlier in the season.

Missouri should be able to keep pace with Mississippi State just as they have with most teams heading into the latter stages of games. But unless the Tigers can overcome their woes out of the starting gate, they will once again find themselves having to make up ground.

Attack the Boards: Kim Anderson knew that rebounding might be a problem coming into the season.

“We need all those guys to play a little bit bigger than they are,” Anderson said after the team’s exhibition game Nov. 6 against Missouri Western. “We’ve talked about all summer and all fall about, 'Hey we need gang rebounding.’”

Midway through the season, Anderson’s worst fears have been realized. His team has a -30 rebound margin on the season. Likewise, the Tigers are 1-9 in games where they are outrebounded.

For Missouri to stand a chance in this game, the team will need to crash the boards. Mississippi State has struggled at rebounding all season, posting a rebound margin of -65. If Mizzou can capitalize on this weakness, they should have no problem picking up their ninth win of the season.

Ball Movement: Let’s face it, nobody on the Missouri roster has the pure skill to perform the isolation plays run by the likes of LSU’s Ben Simmons or Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield.

However, the Tigers have often found themselves trying to run plays where one player tries to take the opposing defender off the dribble and then throwing up an ill-advised shot. It is not a very effective play style, especially for a team that does not have a knock down scorer.

For inspiration, Mizzou should look to No. 3 Iowa.

The Hawkeyes almost always find themselves with open looks thanks to the way they sling the ball around the perimeter to move opposing defenses out of position. It is not a complicated offense yet it is one of the most efficient in the entire nation.

Missouri needs to create high percentage shots in order to be successful in any game, not just against the Bulldogs. Saturday’s game may be the perfect time to work on what could lead to a more successful, higher scoring basketball team.

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