Missouri looks to avoid a bad loss to conclude non-conference play. Can Central Arkansas pose a challenge for them?
TV Schedule: Saturday, December 30, 3:00 pm ET (SECN)
Location: Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Missouri
Missouri has one last chance to pick up a non-con win before the calendar flips to 2024 and SEC play begins. The Tigers are desperate for a win after dropping the previous three games. Mizzou gave up 97 points in a 24-point loss to Illinois the last time they took the court, the most they have given up in a game coached by Dennis Gates. The defense has been downright awful as of late, unable to get stops anywhere on the floor. The Tigers allowed the Illini to shoot nearly 50 percent from the floor and gave up 30 points to Terrence Shannon Jr and 28 points to Quincy Guerrier.
In his first start for Missouri, Freshman Forward Trent Pierce showed his upside, scoring 12 points and grabbing four rebounds. But other than his performance against Illinois, Pierce has had a minimal impact on the season. Sean East II continues to be the best weapon on the offensive end, averaging just over 17 points per game. Tamar Bates has been steady on offense for the Tigers over the past couple of games, pushing his season average to 8.6 points.
If Mizzou has any hopes of making it to the NCAA Tournament they will have to figure things on the defensive end of the floor. They are giving up 95 points per game over their past two games, nearly 23 points above their average. Missouri's next game against Central Arkansas should help get the Tigers back on track before the strains of conference play begin.
The season has not been kind to Central Arkansas, as they have only managed to win three games thus far. The Bears currently sit at the bottom of the A-SUN standings, but not all has been bad recently for Central Arkansas, as they have won two of their last three games. But they are looking at their toughest stretch of games this season. Before traveling to Columbia to take on Missouri, the Bears have a stop in Norman on Thursday to take on No. 12 Oklahoma.
Central Arkansas has struggled on both ends of the court, giving up over 75 points this season while only scoring 69.2 points per game. Freshman Tucker Anderson has been the bright spot this season for the Bears, averaging 14 points per game. Elias Cato is the only player scoring in double figures at just under 11 points per game.
Missouri should be able to take advantage of a Central Arkansas defense that is allowing opponents to make nearly 45 percent from the floor. The Bears are also allowing just under nine made threes per game. The Tigers should be able to push the pace and get just about any shot they want. As long as Missouri can get some defensive stops, they won’t have anything to worry about in this game.
If Missouri was ever in need of a get-right game, this matchup against Central Arkansas would be it. Moving forward the Tigers cannot afford any more three-game losing streaks. I think Missouri should cruise to an easy win over the Bears, boosting their confidence entering the conference slate.