Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: Know your Enemy: Missouri Tigers

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Feb. 2, 2013; Columbia, MO, USA; Missouri Tigers guard Phil Pressey (1) dribbles the ball during the second half against the Auburn Tigers at Mizzou Arena. Missouri won 91-77. Mandatory Credit: Dak Dillon-USA TODAY Sports

 

Point guard Phil Pressey is one of the most intriguing players in all of college basketball. Just ta week ago, he was the nation’s assist leader at 7.2 per game, but his numbers have dipped to 6.8. He can also blow by defenders with lighting-quick speed and score at the rack. His jump-shot is streaky at-best, and he’s shot less than 40% in 6 of his last 10 games.

Pressey’s passing skills are what make him so good. Once the pace of a game gets to 70 possessions per game, Pressey’s assists average rises to 10.1 per game, including 19 during 97-94 overtime loss December 28th at UCLA.

When he’s on the top of his game, he’s the best point guard in the nation, and one of the most unstoppable players there is. But he’s very up-and-down with his play from game-to-game. Even in a single contest, he’ll look like an All-American for a 10 minute-stretch, then look like a Conference USA guard the next 5 minutes.

At times, Pressey forces his shots and sometimes doesn’t look to get his teammates involved. When he does try to get his teammates involved, he has elite passing skills, but too often he’ll try and thread the needle with his passes and it leads to turnovers.

UK fans are very familiar with forward Alex Oriahki, a senior transfer from Connecticut, who adds a rugged element to Missouri’s front court. He’s a rebounder and interior defender first, so scoring in the paint will be difficult for Kyle Wiltjer and Alex Poythress. forward Laurence Bowers is also a tough interior defender, so Alex and Kyle need to look to stretch them out with some perimeter shots. The Tigers are #1 in the nation in rebounding (42.2 per game), and the Cats have had far too many games this season where they were beaten badly on the boards, and with no Nerlens Noel, Willy Cauley-Stein must play the best game of his life to even hold up against Missouri’s frontline. Poythress must also play hard and smart, and can’t afford to be in foul trouble.

This is the game of the year for Kentucky. If they win this game, and go 3-1 in their final four games, they’ll be in the NCAA Tournament. Lose, and now they must either beat a top-5 Florida squad on Senior day, or win the SEC Tournament to get an NCAA bid. That being said, I see the Cats gutting out a thriller in Rupp Arena, 64-63. 

 

 

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