Missouri takes on Illinois in a rivalry matchup. How has the edge when these teams face off?
TV Schedule: Friday, December 22, 9:00 pm ET (FS1)
Location: Enterprise Center in St Louis, Missouri
Missouri (7-4) is looking to bounce back after a tough loss on Sunday to Seton Hall, dropping the game 93-87. The Tigers put together one of its worst defensive performances under Head Coach Dennis Gates against the Pirates. The 93 points given up is only the third time in the 46 games under Gates that Missouri has allowed their opponent to top 90 points. The only time a Gates-led Mizzou team has given up more points was to Kansas last season, the Jayhawks scored 95 in a 28-point route.
The Tigers lacked effort when it came to defending the paint. In the first half, the Pirates made nearly 61 percent of their shots inside the arc, almost all of them layups. To make matters worse for Missouri, Seton Hall made 10 threes in the game, the most they have made in a game this season. Tamar Bates recorded his first 20-point game for the Tigers, leading the team with 22 points. Sean East II, who only had four points at the half, came on strong down the final stretch and ended up with 16 points.
Mizzou will need another strong offensive performance when they take on Illinois on Friday. East continues to pace the Tigers with 17.1 points per game. Nick Honor has put together a nice scoring run over the past three games, averaging over 15 points during that span. And if Bates can continue to score like he did against Seton Hall, then Missouri should be able to keep up with Illinois’ high-scoring offense.
Illinois (8-2) is coming off a 17-point win over Colgate. The only losses for the Illini this season have been to ranked opponents, both seven-point losses to Marquette and Tennessee. Terrence Shannon has been Illinois’ best player this season. He leads the team with 20.9 points per game, and his best offensive performance was a 33-point outing in a win over Florida Atlantic. Marcus Domask is the only other Illinois player scoring in double figures, but they get at least 5.7 points per game from five other players.
Illinois is a top-five team in the country when it comes to rebounding, grabbing just under 45 rebounds per game. On the defensive end, they only give up 64.2 points per game, forcing their opponents into bad shots. The Illini have great size at all positions and use it to overpower their opponents. Illinois’ defense has shut down almost every team they’ve played this season, holding their opponents to just over 37 percent from the floor.
It was all Missouri in last year's game, taking down the Illini 93-71. But these are two vastly different teams from last year. Illinois is probably the second-best team in the Big Ten and Missouri is still struggling to put together solid performances on both ends of the court. I don’t know if Mizzou’s defense will be able to slow down Shannon and the high-powered Illini offense. Illinois' size and stellar defense look to pose problems for Missouri as well. The Tigers have struggled with bigger teams in the past and I don’t see this game being any different.