The biggest storyline of Wednesday’s game at Oklahoma State, aside from the touching tribute to the 10 killed in a 2001 plane crash, was Dogus Balbay’s defense.
The Texas guard held OSU’s second-leading scorer to zero points and overall the Longhorn defense limited the Cowboys to their lowest scoring total of the season.
“That’s what Dogus is known for,” said Texas’ Jordan Hamilton, “stopping the best player on the other team.”
Balbay’s role will be even more crucial this Saturday against No. 11 Missouri, which has the best scoring offense in the Big 12 and fifth-best in the country with 85 points per game. The team also had a week off since its last game Jan. 22.
“When you’re playing well, you don’t really want to have that open week, but it’s on the schedule, and we’ve got to take advantage of it,” said Missouri head coach Mike Anderson, who is also the father of Texas women’s player Yvonne Anderson.
The Tigers (17-3, 3-2 Big 12) don’t have a single scorer in the conference’s top five, but they do have five players averaging double digits in points. For comparison, Texas (17-3, 5-0) has four and is fourth in the conference in scoring offense.
Missouri scores from all over the court and moves the ball well, averaging 18 assists per game, second only to Kansas in the league. Most of the dishes can be attributed to two young guards: sophomore Michael Dixon with 4.5 assists per game, and freshman Phil Pressey with 3.8 per game.
The Tigers are also known for their press defense. The so-called “40 minutes of hell” approach Anderson brought from his time under Nolan Richardson at Arkansas is a big hit in Columbia and helped the team reach the Elite Eight in 2009 and the second round of the tournament last year.
Missouri started the season No. 15 and has bounced around the rankings with inconsistent performances. The Tigers lost 111-102 to No. 21 Georgetown on Nov. 30 but a month later defeated No. 20 Illinois, which Texas has also beaten.
Missouri went on to lose its conference opener against Colorado but since then is 3-1 in Big 12 play, with the sole loss coming against Texas A&M in overtime.
The Tigers’ biggest weakness is on the glass, where they are ninth in the conference in rebounding margin. Wednesday’s announcement by the NCAA that 6-foot-8 freshman Tony Mitchell won’t be eligible to play for Missouri this season surely won’t help that statistic.
Now Missouri travels to Austin to face Texas, a team that is averaging 7.1 more rebounds than its opponents this season.
“They’re going to get in there, rebound and bang and do whatever it takes to win,” Anderson said about the Longhorns. “It’s a team that’s playing with a lot of confidence. I think they’re playing with a lot of confidence right now and really playing awfully well at home.”