After feasting on skyhawks, broncs, and mockingbirds early in the season, the Missouri Tigers slogged through the rest of the 2009 South Padre Island Tournament as if they had just woken up from a post-Thanksgiving feast nap.
Over the semifinals and finals of the tournament, the Tigers managed to shoot only 35 percent from the field while averaging 13 turnovers a game.
That will have to change come Wednesday when coach Mike Anderson and company travel to Nashville, Tennessee. There the Tigers will take on the Vanderbilt Commodores in their first true road game of the year.
Vanderbilt held a No. 24 ranking in both polls before dropping an EA Sports Maui Invitational game to upstart Cincinnati.
Aside from the unconventional court layout at Vanderbilt, the Tigers will have to contend with a raucous home crowd in what will be only Vanderbilt's second home game of the season.
Those in the stands will do their best to take the Tigers' focus off of those on the court. This includes a deep Vandy team that includes nine players averaging double-digit minutes. Missouri counters with 10 players logging considerable minutes.
One of those nine, junior A.J. Ogilvy, looks to be a bigger deciding factor than the depth of both teams. But it all depends on what version of the 6'11" center shows up. Will it be the version who mopped the floor with Arizona with a 20-point, seven-rebound, and four-block performance? Or will it be the timid rag doll that managed only three field goals and six rebounds in 22 minutes against Cincinnati?
Another interesting niche in this game will be to watch how J.T. Tiller responds after his first action after missing time with an injury. In his first two games back, Tiller averaged 29.5 minutes.
That conditioning will be needed to keep Vanderbilt senior Jermaine Beal in check. The Commodores' only senior playing considerable minutes, Beal leads Vandy in minutes (31.8), scoring (15.4), and assist to turnover ratio (2.3/1). In his last outing, Beal tore up Arizona's talented guard duo of Nic Wise and Brendon Lavender for 18 points on 50 percent shooting, five assists, and two steals.
Vanderbilt holds its opponents to just 38 percent shooting while forcing 16 turnovers a game. For MU to be successful, they must trust in the senior backcourt of Zaire Taylor and Tiller to handle the pressure of Memorial Arena. The Mizzou guards must take care of the ball, exhibit patience, and find open, high-percentage shots to snap their cold shooting streak.
Or else the Thanksgiving hangover is bound to continue.
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