Missouri men's basketball team braces for grueling stretch

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 | 8:52 p.m. CST; updated 12:19 a.m. CST, Thursday, November 18, 2010

COLUMBIA — The Missouri men's basketball team is getting tired of playing each other, Tigers coach Mike Anderson said, which is a good thing if you look at the Tigers' schedule. The team is set to open its regular season with a string of seven games in 14 days.

With the team playing so many games in such a short span of time, Anderson said that a key concern will be keeping his players rested.

“I think they’re looking forward to playing,” Anderson said. “But I think that’s where our depth comes into play. I play certain guys, and sometimes people wonder why, but it’s for situations like this one.”

Before the stretch is over, Missouri will play in four different venues. In addition to the season opener Thursday against Western Illinois at Mizzou Arena, the team will also play in Aventura Palace in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, the Sprint Center in Kansas City and McArthur Court in Eugene, Ore. The team will travel 7,308 miles in all.

Players said Anderson will give them a few days off to rest, but, as of Tuesday afternoon, they didn't know what that schedule looked like.

“We have to get our rest whenever we can,” senior forward Justin Safford said. “Traveling by itself is exhausting. Some of these guys haven’t figured that out yet, but they will soon enough.”

Western Illinois, like many other teams across the country, has already started its season. So far, the Leathernecks are 2-0 after an 83-47 win over St. Francis and a 59-52 win over Savannah State. Western Illinois is led by senior guard Matt Lander, who is averaging 18.5 points per game and junior guard Ceola Clark III, who is averaging 16.5 points per game.

The game is the first round of the Cancun Challenge, which, in addition to Missouri and Western Illinois, features La Salle, Providence, Wyoming, Morgan State, North Florida and Prairie View A&M.

Missouri will play North Florida at home on Saturday, followed by a game against Wyoming on Tuesday in Mexico. Depending on results, the Tigers will then play against either Providence or LaSalle on Wednesday.

The team returns to Mizzou Arena to play Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 28 then hits the road again to play Nov. 30 in Kansas City against Georgetown and Dec. 2 at Oregon.

But no one is complaining about the schedule. 

“We had the exhibition games, but it’s kind of hard to get up for those games,” junior guard Kim English said. “Not too much to gain, but a lot to lose. But now, each game counts.”

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