Tigers battle Cats with much at stake

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Missouri looks to collect its seventh consecutive Big 12 win this evening when the Tigers host the Kansas State Wildcats. Missouri is 23-and-4 overall and 10-and-2 in Big 12 play. Kansas State is 19-and-8 and 7-and-5. The overall series is tied at 114 wins apiece, but Missouri leads 62-41 in Columbia.
Three Things You Need to Know About the Wildcats
On a Roll: The Tigers' may be the league's hottest team. If they're not, it is Kansas State. Since an 0-and-4 start in league play, the Cats have won seven out of eight. That string included an 88-72 win over Mizzou in Manhattan. The lone loss came to Kansas, 85-74.
Beasts on the Boards: The Wildcats lead the Big 12, grabbing 39.3 rebounds per game. They are also the league's best on the offensive glass, averaging 15.8 offensive boards a night. The Tigers were outrebounded the Cats in Manhattan, 39-35.
No Free Points: Only two teams in the league have attempted more than K-State's 667 free throws (Oklahoma and Texas A&M). But the Wildcats have made only 431 of those, ranking seventh in the league. All told, the Cats shoot only 64.6% from the line, nearly two percentage points worse than the teams above them in free throw percentage. K-State made 6-of-10 free throws in the first meeting and has only three regulars shooting better than 66.7% from the stripe.
Three Things You Need to Know About the Tigers
Third Assured: With a win, Missouri would assure itself of no worse than the No. 3 seed in the Big 12 tournament in Oklahoma City. The Tigers have finished that high in the league only once before. With just one more win in its final four games, Missouri locks up a top four finish and a bye in the Big 12 tournament. But a head-to-head loss against Kansas State would give the Wildcats the tiebreaker due to a sweep if the teams end the regular season tied.
Home Sweet Home: Missouri has not lost at Mizzou Arena this season, winning its 16 home games by a staggering average of 26.5 poins. The Tigers have a 17-game home winning streak overall, which matches the eighth longest in America.
Historic Heights: Missouri's next win would be its 24th in the regular season. That would match the second-highest regular season win total in school history. The Tigers have won 24 regular season games four times, the most recent coming in 1993-94. The 1989-90 Tigers hold the school record with 26 regular season wins. If Mizzou were to win out, they would set the record with 27 regular season victories.
Three Keys to the Game
Defend the Three: Kansas State made 12 of its 22 three-pointers in the game at Manhattan. Jacob Pullen and Fred Brown combined for ten of those makes on just 14 attempts. For the season, K-State is making 36.4% of its three-point shots. Missouri leads the league in three-point defense, allowing opponents to make only 30.5% of their shots from beyond the arc.
Don't Turn it Over: In the first matchup, J.T. Tiller and Zaire Taylor had four turnovers apiece. In the six games since, the duo has combined to turn it over only 12 times. Not coincidentally, Missouri has won all six games. Four times during that stretch, Tiller has not had a single turnover. If Missouri can hang on to the ball, they greatly increase their chances at a win.
Slow it Down???: It is no secret Missouri wants to run and play an up-tempo game. But so does Kansas State. The Wildcats are just 6-and-8 when they fail to score 75 points, including 3-and-5 in league play. Missouri, when failing to hit that number, is 4-and-3 on the season. However, the Tigers have won their last four games while being held under 75, showing versatility that wasn't there earlier in the season. The last team to score more than 72 on Mizzou? The Wildcats in their 88-72 win.
Official Prediction: Up front, this is the toughest matchup for Missouri perhaps in the entire league. Kansas State not only is comfortable playing at Missouri's pace, but the Wildcats want to play at that pace. Both teams figure to get some easy looks, but both are likely to turn it over as well. It figures to come down to which team shoots the ball better. Missouri is hitting at a 47.9% clip on the season. Kansas State is shooting just 44.3%. The home rims are kind to the Tigers and home court will be the difference in this one. We'll go with Mizzou in an entertaining 86-81 victory. will provide complete coverage from Mizzou Arena tonight.
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