North Florida-Missouri Preview
Missouri had a little extra time to prepare for this season as the last Top 25 team to play its opener. Its up-tempo offense, however, looked like it could have used some more time to jell.
The 15th-ranked Tigers hope to rebound from a sluggish performance Saturday when they host North Florida in another opening-round game of the Cancun Challenge.
Missouri, which returns four of the top five scorers from last season's team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament, has named its hard-pressing, running offense "the 40 fastest minutes in basketball." The offense looked ready for the regular season after scoring 114 and 115 points in two exhibition games, respectively, but it never got in gear in Thursday's 66-61 win over Western Illinois in an opening-round game of the Cancun Challenge.
The Tigers trailed for much of the first half and failed on several occasions to put away the Leathernecks down the stretch, finishing 14 of 27 from the free-throw line. They also missed 14 of 20 from 3-point range and were outrebounded 38-37.
"It's better to learn lessons in wins than in losses," junior guard Kim English said.
English averaged a team-high 14.0 points last season but was held to eight on 3-for-10 shooting. He wasn't the only Missouri player to have trouble scoring.
Laurence Bowers, Phil Pressey, Marcus Denmon and Steve Moore led the Tigers with nine points apiece. It was the first time Missouri won without a single double-digit scorer since a 39-38 victory over Kansas on Feb. 12, 1951.
"We are a team that's a work in progress and you can see it," coach Mike Anderson said. "I've never seen a game where you have nobody in double figures but it goes back to my statement about the balance of a basketball team.
"We'll get better, we'll get a lot better."
The Tigers, winners of 48 straight non-conference home games, appear to have a good chance of leaving with a better result in their first meeting with North Florida, which is 2-29 on the road against non-conference opponents over the past six seasons.
The Ospreys (1-2) played their first season of Division I basketball in 2005-06, and they've been outscored by an average of 41.0 points in losing all five games against ranked opponents. This will be their second matchup with a Top 25 team this season after a 95-49 loss to No. 5 Pittsburgh last Saturday.
North Florida bounced back from that defeat with Thursday's 76-60 victory over Wyoming in a Cancun Challenge opening-round game. Sophomore Andres Diaz finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds for the Ospreys, who went on a 26-8 run over the game's final 12 minutes.
"I thought it was a great team win and everybody did the things they know how to do," coach Matthew Driscoll told the Ospreys' official website.
The Cancun Challenge continues Tuesday in Mexico with Missouri facing Wyoming and North Florida squaring off against Prairie View A&M.