Missouri Basketball: 5 Keys for Mizzou Against Alabama
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After barely slipping by a very good Bucknell team over the past weekend, the Missouri Tigers basketball team will play its first-ever SEC conference game against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Tuesday night.
The Tigers, who are ranked No.10 in the country according to the latest AP Top 25 poll, will begin their quest to fulfill the high expectations set upon them. Doing so will not be easy. It never is in conference play.
The Tigers will need to be on top of their game as they play host to the Crimson Tide. Here are five keys to a Mizzou victory over Alabama on Tuesday night.
Dominate the Glass
Mizzou center Alex Oriakhi has been a monster on the glass this season for the Tigers.
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Missouri is currently the best rebounding team in the country, averaging 46.7 rebounds per game.
Meanwhile, Alabama struggles on the glass. The Crimson Tide are 260th in the nation in rebounding and pull down just 33.0 boards per game.
There would be no excuse for the physical Tigers to not control the glass. Missouri center Alex Oriakhi and power forward Laurence Bowers must dominate the paint and the boards on both ends of the floor if Mizzou hopes to pick up its first victory in SEC conference play.
Push the Ball in Transition
Mizzou point guard Phil Pressey is explosive in the open floor.
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If Mizzou is able to dominate the glass, as it should, it will likely open up opportunities for the Tigers to run, and point guard Phil Pressey must take advantage when he gets the chance.
The Tigers are at their best when Pressey is able to push the ball up the floor and catch the defense on its heals.
Pressey can not run the fast break on his own. Jabari Brown, Earnest Ross and Keion Bell must sprint down the sidelines and fill the lanes on the break in order for the Tigers to find easy baskets in transition.
If Mizzou is able to control the tempo and play fast, look for the Tigers to outscore Alabama by a wide margin.
Stop Alabama Guard Trevor Releford
Guard Trevor Releford is leading the Alabama Crimson Tide in scoring this season.
While Mizzou is clearly talented at the point guard position with Phil Pressey, the Alabama Crimson Tide have a pretty guard on their roster as well.
Junior Trevor Releford, who is a Kansas City, Missouri native, is leading the Crimson Tide in scoring and is averaging 15.6 points per game.
Releford is an efficient scorer and is shooting 47.2 percent from the field and has demonstrated that he is a threat from deep, knocking down 42.5 percent from beyond the arc.
If Mizzou hopes to protect its home floor, the Tigers must contain Releford and minimize his production.
Knock Down Free Throws
Oriakhi and his teammates must do a better job of knocking down free throws.
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In the win against Bucknell, Mizzou knocked down just seven of its 12 free-throw attempts. One of those misses was by Pressey in the game's final minute, a mistake that nearly came back to cost the Tigers.
Missouri can not expect to miss free throws and get away with it forever now that SEC conference play has started.
Not only do the Tigers need to do a better job of knocking down free throws, but they need to do a better job of getting to the charity stripe in the first place.
Good teams get to the free-throw line and convert often, and Missouri has to get better in this facet of its game not only to beat Alabama, but to compete for a SEC crown.
Maintain Composure in Front of the Home Crowd
The Tigers will need to keep their emotions in check while playing for their first ever SEC conference victory.
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When the Missouri Tigers football team recorded its first SEC conference, the school went a little overboard and sold shirts to commemorate the moment.
It is unlikely shirts will be made if the Tigers beat Alabama, but you can be certain that there will be excitement in the air at Mizzou Arena.
The gym will likely be packed with fans clad in black and gold, hoping to see Mizzou notch its first SEC victory in basketball.
The Tigers must not get too amped up and must concentrate on playing their game. They must execute on offense by taking care of the basketball and by taking good shots. They must play with intensity on defense, but they also must play smart.
If the Tigers are able to play within themselves and not let the moment be too big, Mizzou should roll to its first SEC conference victory.