Columbia, MO (Sports Network) - The 12th-ranked Missouri Tigers continue their four-game home stand on Saturday afternoon when they entertain the Tennessee State Tigers at Mizzou Arena.
Tennessee State challenged itself with a difficult early-season schedule, and it paid the price with losses in five of its first six games, which included defeats on the road against BYU (81-66), South Dakota State (78-71) and Minnesota (72-43). It has since bounced back with three straight wins, most recently beating Drexel at home, 76-66.
Missouri has lived up to the hype as one of the strongest teams in the SEC through the first month of the season, with its only loss coming against Louisville (84-61) in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. It too is currently riding a three-game win streak after defeating Southeast Missouri State on Tuesday, 81-65.
Missouri won the only previous matchup between these two teams, taking an 89-75 decision in the 1995 season opener.
The offensive attack for Tennessee State has been lackluster at best, as it is shooting just 41.2 percent from the field for fewer than 70 ppg, but it has picked things up in recent weeks, having scored 83.7 ppg during its three-game win streak. It was incredibly efficient in its latest 10-point win over Drexel, making 50 percent of its total shots (26-of-52) and 83.3 percent of its attempts from the foul line (20-of-24), while committing just 10 turnovers. Leading five players in double figures was Kellen Thornton with 20 points on 9-of-16 shooting, while Robert Covington was also impressive in the win with 17 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Covington, a preseason All- Ohio Valley Conference selection, is the team's best all-around performer, tallying 16.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg, and more than two steals per game while draining a team-high 13 three-pointers. Thornton has stepped up his play this year, as he's right on Covington's heels with 15.6 ppg and 7.4 rpg.
Missouri has been solid at both ends of the floor this season, scoring 76.0 ppg while allowing just 64.6 ppg for an SEC-best scoring margin of plus-11.4. It actually found itself down by 10 points at the half against SEMO, but shot 51.9 percent from the floor in the second half (and 17-of-19 from the foul line) to pull away for a 16-point victory. Laurence Bowers led the comeback with 26 points and nine rebounds, and while Phil Pressey struggled from the floor (4-of-18), he still ended up with 17 points, six boards, five assists, and three steals. Tony Criswell (13 points) and Keion Bell (12 points, 11 rebounds) both put together fine performances coming off the bench. On the season, Bowers has been fantastic, scoring 16.8 ppg on nearly 59 percent field goal shooting while adding 6.5 rpg and 1.1 bpg. Pressey (14.0 ppg) hasn't been very accurate with his shot attempts (.379), but his 6.1 apg and 2.1 spg bring immeasurable value to the squad. Alex Oriakhi (10.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and Earnest Ross (10.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg) round out the balanced attack.