Tiger Tip-Off Preview: Houston Christian

Mizzou closes out a seven-game homestand on Saturday and will look to stay unbeaten as it takes on Houston Christian (formerly known as Houston Baptist).

The Huskies have just one win on the year, coming against a non-Division I opponent in Champion Christian, and will be hoping to snap a three-game losing streak.

Missouri (6-0) vs. Houston Christian (1-5)

WHEN: 11 a.m.

WHERE: Mizzou Arena, Columbia, Missouri

TV: SEC Network+

SERIES: 0-0 (First Meeting)

KENPOM PREDICTION: Mizzou 91, Houston Christian 66

1. Pound the paint. The Tigers have been formidable inside the arc this year, shooting 62.2% on 2-pointers, ranking sixth in the country. The team has scored at least 40 points in the lane in five of the six games it’s played so far this year. Missouri’s highest total came against SIU Edwardsville on Nov. 20, with 64 of its 105 points coming from the paint. HCU’s interior defense has been a welcome mat early on, allowing opponents to shoot 66.2% on 2s, which ranks dead last out of all 363 NCAA D1 teams. The Tigers shouldn’t have much trouble finding baskets around the rim.

2. Run the Huskies off the 3-point line. Mizzou’s perimeter defense looked improved in its last game against Coastal Carolina, holding the Chanticleers to 6-23 from outside in Wednesday’s game. Houston Christian is a more accurate team overall, though, connecting on 41.0% of its 3s. Of the six players who are averaging at least one attempt from deep per game, four are hitting them at a 40% clip or better. The Huskies aren’t nearly as effective inside, making 44.1% of their 2s, so closing out on shooters should suit the Tigers well.

3. Keep the ball moving. Missouri currently leads the nation averaging 22.3 assists per game and is seventh with a 1.84 assist-to-turnover ratio. Head coach Dennis Gates said this is the first team he’s coached that’s had at least 20 assists in each game it’s played. The Tigers are dropping dimes on 64.7% of their field goals made, which ranks 13th in the NCAA — that number does not include the times a pass leads to a foul resulting in a trip to the free throw line. Sharing the ball has been essential for Mizzou’s offense, and that should be the case again against HCU.

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