COLUMBIA — Wednesday night's game against Alabama (14-10, 7-5 SEC) will mark a small chance of redemption for the Missouri men's basketball team (7-17, 2-10).
On Jan. 18, Missouri lost 68-56 at Alabama. Despite that loss, the Tigers remain confident they can beat the Crimson Tide this time around. Instead of being in the midst of a demoralizing losing streak — as was the case the first time these teams met in Tuscaloosa, Alabama — the Tigers have won two out of their past three games and will have home court advantage.
"I feel like we'll be much more comfortable this time," junior forward Jordan Barnett said at a press conference Monday. "I feel like we'll be able to get some good looks."
Missouri head coach Kim Anderson hopes his team can continue the success it has had on the boards. In Saturday’s 72-52 win over Vanderbilt, the Tigers grabbed 16 offensive rebounds and 43 total. The Commodores finished with six offensive and 25 total.
"Key for us in this game will be, 'Can we rebound with them,'" Anderson said. “We didn't do a great job (at Alabama)."
Replicating Saturday’s success on the glass will be no easy task against Alabama. The Crimson Tide average 40 rebounds per game, while their opponents average 33.8. That margin of 6.2 is 25th in the nation and first in the SEC.
“They’re big, and they can offensive rebound,” Barnett said. "We've just got to find a way to match their intensity, and we've got to play extremely hard to keep them off the glass."
Alabama is coming off an exhausting week. On Feb. 7, the team beat No. 19 South Carolina 90-86 in an away game that went into four overtimes. The Crimson Tide then hosted No. 15 Kentucky on Saturday and lost 67-58.
Alabama is led by freshman forward Braxton Key, who averages 12.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Redshirt freshman guard Dazon Ingram averages 10.2 points. In the first meeting between these two teams this season, junior guard Riley Norris and sophomore guard Avery Johnson Jr. led Alabama with 13 points each. Avery Johnson Jr. is the son of Alabama head coach Avery Johnson, who is well-known for this 16-year NBA career and his three seasons as head coach of the Dallas Mavericks. He is also known for giving no-nonsense answers in interviews.
Missouri is coming off its best win of the season against Vanderbilt. If there's one thing Anderson learned about his team on Saturday, it's that the pregame shoot-around is not a good indication of how the team will play.
“I thought today was the least focused this team has been in shoot-around of any game this year,” Anderson said after the win Saturday. “I just didn't like our focus. But I was wrong.”
Although Anderson doesn't believe there is any correlation between shoot-around focus and game performance, he does hope the confidence from Saturday's win will carry over against Alabama.
Supervising editor is Brooks Holton.