Missouri is opening a critical stretch that will decide the Big 12 title, and the Tigers can’t afford to look past a Kansas State team that’s given them plenty of trouble in recent years.
Seeking only their third win in the last 10 meetings, the No. 11 Tigers host a Wildcats squad that comes into Wednesday’s game having won eight of nine.
Missouri (23-4, 10-2) follows up the matchup with Kansas State by traveling to first-place Kansas on Sunday before hosting second-place Oklahoma on March 4. The Tigers are third in the conference, 1 1/2 games behind the Jayhawks and a half-game back of the Sooners.
The showdowns with Kansas and Oklahoma may not matter much if Missouri can’t defeat Kansas State. The Tigers, looking for their first regular-season conference title since 1993-94, are 2-7 in the previous nine meetings with the Wildcats - although both wins have come at Mizzou Arena, the most recent a 77-74 upset of then-No. 22 Kansas State last Feb. 2.
Missouri was blown out in the two successive meetings, losing 100-63 to the then-No. 18 Wildcats last Feb. 16 and 88-72 on Jan. 28.
The Tigers have won six straight since that January defeat at Manhattan, and 10 of 11 overall. Missouri is perhaps the nation’s most dominant team in the country at home this season, with a 17-game winning streak at Columbia and 16-0 mark there in 2008-09. The Tigers boast the nation’s best home scoring margin at 26.5 points.
Kansas State, though, has won two of its last four at Mizzou Arena, and Missouri’s two victories in that span came by three points each time.
The Tigers defeated Colorado 66-53 on Saturday and have knocked off their last four unranked opponents by an average of 16.8 points.
Forward Leo Lyons recorded his third double-double of the season with a team-leading 13 points and season-high 15 rebounds. Lyons, averaging 14.3 points and 6.0 boards on the season, has totaled 25 rebounds in the last two games after averaging 3.9 in his previous 10.
“(Tigers coach Mike Anderson) got on me in practice about rebounding. I haven’t really been rebounding,” Lyons said. “Last year it came as a streak, and everybody thought I was going to do it this year and I kind of was a letdown on the glass a little bit.”
DeMarre Carroll is averaging a team-leading 17.0 points and 19.9 in the last nine games on 56.7 percent shooting. He scored a team-best 19 points in the Jan. 28 defeat at Kansas State.
Missouri, among the leaders in Division I with 82.2 points per game, will be trying for 11 conference wins for the first time since 1998-99 and a school record-tying seventh consecutive Big 12 victory.
To do so, the Tigers will need to beat a Kansas State team that’s 8-1 since an 0-4 start in conference play. The Wildcats (19-8, 7-5) are looking for a third straight 20-win season for the first time since 1979-82.
Kansas State has won consecutive games following an 85-74 loss to then-No. 16 Kansas on Feb. 14.
Denis Clemente, scoring a team-best 14.6 points per game, has averaged 17.2 in conference play but was held to nine points on 3-of-11 shooting in Saturday’s 50-46 win at Iowa State. Clemente averaged 18.9 points in his previous nine games, including a career-high 44-point effort Jan. 31, but scored only 10 in the last meeting with Missouri.
Jacob Pullen had 23 points and hit five 3-pointers in the Jan. 28 game, but the Wildcats’ second-leading scorer at 13.6 points per game has totaled 17 on 38.9 percent shooting in the last two contests.