No. 15 Alabama brings balanced attack to Missouri

Sports

No. 15 Alabama will try to add to its early SEC road success when it visits struggling Missouri on Saturday.

Alabama (11-3, 2-0 SEC) comes into this game in Columbia, Mo., on the heels of an 83-70 win at Florida on Wednesday.

“I think our guys are showing some leadership, some maturity,” Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said. “You’ve got to play well a little more on the road. These are SEC games. They’re tough to win, and there was a level of urgency and intensity on the defensive end that we had.

“If we’re going to win tough games, we’re going to have to play harder. We didn’t make any huge adjustments on defense.”

The Crimson Tide will catch the Tigers (6-7, 0-1) coming out of a COVID-19 pause that forced the postponement of their home game against Mississippi State on Wednesday.

Alabama features balanced scoring with Jaden Shackelford (16.3 points per game), Jahvon Quinerly (15.2) and Keon Ellis (12.2) leading the way.

The Tigers also could have a matchup problem with 7-foot Alabama center Charles Bediako, who had a strong all-around game at Florida with 11 points, seven rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals.

Forward Kobe Brown, who leads Missouri with 14.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, is the team’s best inside defender. But he got in early foul trouble as the Tigers lost at Kentucky 83-56 in their previous game.

“That’s been the story some in terms of defending the post,” said assistant coach Cornell Mann, who stepped in with coach Cuonzo Martin sidelined in COVID protocols.

The Wildcats limited Brown to six points and three rebounds while getting 13 points and 20 rebounds from center Oscar Tshiebwe. Prior to that, the Tigers had allowed Illinois center Kofi Cockburn (25 points, 14 rebounds) to dominate them in an 88-63 loss.

Missouri is still finding its way after integrating transfers Amari Davis (averaging 10.4 points), Jarron Coleman, DaJuan Gordon and Ronnie DeGray III into its rotation. The Tigers are also finding minutes for four freshmen in what has become a difficult rebuilding season.

“The maturation process is taking place,” Mann said. “For us to win some of these games, we’re going to have to continue to mature, maybe a little faster.”

Missouri is shooting just 24.25 percent from 3-point range, which ranks 349th out of 350 Division I teams. Alabama also has struggled with perimeter shooting, hitting 32.45 percent from beyond the arc, which ranked 232nd.

“We haven’t shot it particularly great really for a while, maybe since the Gonzaga game,” said Oats, recalling that 91-82 victory on Dec. 4. “But we’ve played hard enough to win two big SEC games here to start the year.”

–Field Level Media

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