Missouri travels to 13th-ranked Arizona on Sunday

Coach Kim Anderson: “It's a great opportunity for us to go play one of the top programs in the country.”

Weeks ago, as the Missouri men’s basketball team braced to hit the road to face Xavier, freshman point guard Terrence Phillips said: “I really think we can go in there and steal one."

Facing a team that’s made the Sweet Sixteen five out of the last eight years, facing a school that prides itself on basketball and facing a team that was simply and significantly better, coach Kim Anderson responded to Phillips saying: "That mic's not on, is it?"

Ultimately, Mizzou went into Xavier’s Cintas Center and lost, 78-66, but the improvement in performances since last year against the Musketeers was evident.

At 7 p.m. Sunday on the Pac-12 Network, Missouri will travel to play another premiere basketball power: Arizona.

This game will stand as the first of a home-and-home series — Arizona will come to Columbia next year — and will be the second straight year the Tigers face the Wildcats away from Mizzou Arena.

In last year’s Maui Invitational, the Tigers fell to Arizona, 72-53. The story from that game was Arizona’s stifling defense as Missouri committed 17 turnovers and shot 36 percent from the floor.

Against Omaha this past Wednesday, Mizzou turned the ball over 18 times. Although the Tigers emerged as the victor, it’s a statistic that could be the difference come Sunday night. Anderson also added that he might look over the tape from that game, but that it’s by no means indicative of what Mizzou will face in Sunday’s contest.

"It's a great opportunity for us to go play one of the top programs in the country,” Anderson said. “We have to be more efficient. We can't expect to make the mistakes we made tonight and expect to beat a team like Arizona.

"I do think what these games (against high-major teams) have shown us is that we have to play harder all the time."

Playing hard will be just one piece to the puzzle come Sunday night. Arizona, who is 8-1 this year and the Pac-12 preseason poll pick to win the Pac-12 conference, has the longest active home win streak in college basketball at 43 wins.

It’s their storied tradition, their passionate fan base and their coach, Sean Miller, that have led to such great success. It’s that same tradition and passion that Anderson and Phillips want to bring to Columbia.

Phillips has been the biggest advocate for Mizzou’s program and he spoke about Arizona after his 14-point performance against Omaha.

“It’s going to be good going back out west,” said Phillips. “I’ll have some family there and hopefully, if we can hang around to with a few minutes left, I’ll think we’ll have a good shot.”

This time, Anderson wasn’t there to interject.

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