Preview: Tigers welcome Western Michigan to Mizzou Arena
Paced by a talented guard trio and a solid defense, Missouri looks to continue its success at home while playing as a ranked team for the first time this season.
The No. 24 Tigers will try to extend two of the nation’s longest home winning streaks Sunday night against Western Michigan.
A pair of 80-71 home victories over West Virginia and then-No. 18 UCLA in a span of three days last week propelled Missouri (9-0) into the Top 25. The Tigers held the Bruins to a season-low 37.7 percent shooting, including 5 of 20 from 3-point range, to extend the nation’s longest home winning streak to 24 games.
Missouri’s 79 straight home victories over non-conference opponents sit behind only Duke’s 107-game run for the longest active streak of its kind. The Tigers’ last non-conference defeat at home came on Nov. 14, 2005, 80-77 to Sam Houston State.
“We’ve got the best fans in the country,” coach Frank Haith told the school’s official website.
Missouri’s talented backcourt of Jabari Brown, Jordan Clarkson and Earnest Ross combined for 63 points and went 10 of 24 from 3-point range against UCLA. Ross, who hit half of those 3s, is 9 of 21 from beyond the arc while averaging 21.3 points in the last three games.
“As I continue to shoot and see shots go in, it makes the basket get a little bit bigger,” he said. “When I’m in a rhythm, I just think I’m in a pretty good groove and I just continue to keep shooting.”
Clarkson (20.2 points per game) made 40.0 percent of his shots against the Bruins, but is shooting 55.4 percent over the last five contests. Brown (19.4 ppg) finished with a team-high 22 points and hit all 10 free-throw attempts.
“When (the three) have nights like they did (last Saturday) then we can be a tough out,” Haith said.
Haith has also been pleased that the Tigers have allowed no opponent to shoot better than 44.3 percent and only one to top 71 points this season.
“This team has really improved defensively,” he said. “I give it two things: our execution in our offense and being able to set our defense.”
That might not bode well for Western Michigan (5-3), which faces a daunting task while trying to bounce back from a 51-35 loss at Northwestern last Saturday.
“We got (Missouri) just at the right time, when (it) cracked the Top 25,” Broncos coach Steve Hawkins joked to the school’s official website. “They present a unique challenge.”
After totaling 182 points and shooting a combined 55.6 percent in consecutive victories over Oakland and Cornell, Western Michigan was held to 12 first-half points, went 1 of 15 from 3-point range and shot 24.4 percent (10 of 41) against Northwestern.
Though Hawkins knows the difficult challenge that awaits the Broncos in their first-ever meeting with Missouri, he wants his players to simply focus on improving on their last contest.
“This is about us trying to get back on track against an outstanding basketball team,” he said.
Western Michigan guard David Brown averages a team-leading 20.1 points but has totaled 26 while going 7 of 25 from the field in the last two games.