Tempo is key to Missouri men's basketball opener against Wofford

Last time Mizzou faced Wofford, the Tigers defeated the Terriers in the Hearnes Center by a score of 86-60 to open its 1995-96 season.

Ryan Rosburg’s been around the block. Not one time, not two times, but it seems as if he’s walked into the media room nine times prior to Missouri’s basketball team tipping off their season.

With the same strands of hair swooped to his left, the senior center looked energized as he stood, leaning up against the wall, ready to field questions about the 2015-16 campaign that tips off Friday against the Wofford Terriers.

This time, though, the questions regarded the freshmen. In the past, it’s been the transfers, those that coach Kim Anderson vowed not to flood into his program, so this year is different.

Thanks to a style that can be classified as unorthodox in regards to Anderson’s team standards, freshmen guards Terrence Phillips and KJ Walton recorded three steals and scored six points, respectively, in the first five minutes of the game against Missouri Western last week. Missouri won 92-53.

“We haven’t had a day where we’ve been slacking or anything yet,” said Rosburg. “I think Terrence is a leader we need; he’s always energetic and talking to people and picking people up. The rest of (the freshmen) are never pouting or anything; they just come ready to play.”

Mizzou has a lot to live up to against Wofford. In the last 41 openers, the Tigers are 39-2 in home openers — 93-16 all-time. However, Wofford is coming off the best season in school history, and they too have high expectations to begin their season.

Losing a key guard in Karl Cochran, last year’s Southern Conference player of the year, will make scoring tough for Wofford. Though according to Kenpom.com, a basketball site created by Ken Pomeroy based on tracking every statistic from pace of play to points-per-possession, Wofford (161) still ranks six spots better than Missouri (167).

“Wofford is really good,” Anderson said. “I think when you look at them it starts with Eric Garcia, their point guard, who’s a good player. But Jaylen Allen and Spencer Collins are really outstanding shooters and they really make them go.

“They’re a very well-coached team; they handle the ball extremely well and they have a lot of experience so it’s a tough opener for us.”

Pace of play will be key, Anderson said. Although Mizzou comes into the 2015-16 season a bit undersized, the athleticism and plethora of guards should allow the Tigers to play smaller than in years past.

Last year, Wofford ranked 326 out of 351 teams in pace of play, according to Kenpom’s possessions-per-40 minutes statistic. Combine that with the scrappy, hungry and energized playing style Anderson wants his team to play with, and upping the tempo seems like the feasible option for Friday’s game at 8:00 p.m.

“Hopefully we can speed (the game) up,” Anderson said. “Wofford is very efficient and I think we want to play a little bit faster than we did a year ago -- we’ve worked on that.

“And a year ago, I’m not sure we had that kind of personnel (to do that).”

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