Marcus Denmon Leads Missouri Into Road Matchup With Texas A&M

Eric HobbsCorrespondent IJanuary 14, 2011

The Mike Anderson era at Missouri has turned the program and enjoyed many highs since it began in 2006.

One thing Anderson has not been able to do, however, is beat Texas A&M.

Anderson and the Tigers will have that chance Saturday when Mizzou (15th AP/12th USA Today) heads to College Station to face the Aggies (14th AP/13th USA Today) in what should prove to be a difficult test for the Tigers.

Texas A&M comes in with a record of 15-1 and is quietly putting together a very impressive season, having already defeated Temple and Washington, as well as dismantling Oklahoma State on Wednesday.

Coming off a workmanlike win over Nebraska on Wednesday, Missouri will need focus on the glass, as the Texas A&M is a strong rebounding team. Nathan Walkup leads the way for the Aggies, averaging 6.1 rebounds while also chipping in 10.3 points a game. 

Laurence Bowers and Cardo Ratliffe will need to play strong and hold their ground down low at both ends of the court to prevent A&M from dominating the glass and shutting down the Missouri interior.

While perhaps known as an athletic team that can rebound, opponents should be aware of Khris Middleton, who averages 15 points a game shooting 50 percent from the field.

Middleton is not the only player capable of lighting it up, however. Against Oklahoma State, the Aggies were 8-17 (47 percent) from three-point range in their 71-48 blowout win.

For Missouri, pushing their pace and pressure will be key, as usual. A key to being able to set up their press will be to make shots so they have time to set it up. The offense needs to flow through Marcus Denmon, who leads the Tigers with 17.1 points a game. Denmon is shooting 51 percent from the field, including 50.5 percent from three-point range.

Another factor will be one other guard being able to score to take pressure of Denmon. The most likely candidate is Michael Dixon, who often seems to be able to drive into the lane at will. Matt Pressey also will needs to avoid foul trouble, which has a tendency to haunt him at times.

We all know that when Kim English gets in a groove, he can be a game-changer. The problem with him is that he hasn't been able to find his stroke on a consistent basis all season. Hopefully for Missouri, he can hit a few shots and find open shots for his teammates if his shot isn't falling.

The return of Phil Pressey certainly has created a spark in the offense, as he has perhaps the best court vision of any of the Tigers. Against Nebraska, the younger Pressey found Laurence Bowers on a number of occasions with skilled passes that many players would not even attempt. Pressey is limited, as his broken bone continues to heal, forcing him to shoot left-handed.

Fans at Reed Arena Saturday can expect to see athletic play everywhere on the court, as these are two of the more athletics teams in the conference. For Missouri to win, Marcus Denmon needs to put up his typical 15-20 points, another guard needs to add 10-15, and the Tigers need to control the rebounding margin.

A&M will likely out-rebound the Tigers, but Missouri cannot afford another 46-31 margin like last week against Colorado.

Winning on the road in the Big 12 is proving to be no small chore, but if Missouri can accomplish these three things, they should have a good chance of stealing one on the road.