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Missouri to open Big 12 play this afternoon at Colorado

At 14-1 and ranked in the top 10 in both national polls, you might think the Missouri Tigers would be satisfied.

You’d be partially right.

“I think we’re going in the right direction,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said as the Tigers prepared for today’s Big 12 Conference opener (12:30 p.m., KMIZ-TV) at Colorado against the Buffaloes (11-4). “It seems like each and every game, we’re taking baby steps.”

Those “baby steps” have gotten a bit longer in recent games, with the newcomers getting more experience.

“In the last four or five games, our defense has picked up and guys are getting the idea of what has to take place and understanding their roles,” Anderson said. “The new guys are getting acclimated with the play at this level and with the style we play.”

First-year Colorado coach Tad Boyle says much the same about his team.

“When you look at our team over the past three or four weeks, I think we’ve gotten a lot better,” Boyle said.

The Buffaloes have won nine of their last 10 and will bring a four-game winning streak into this afternoon’s game.

“It was kind of a rocky start,” Boyle said. “We had a lot of road games. I wish we had some of those games back, we weren’t playing at a high level.”

Colorado, which has lost its last 13 Big 12 Conference openers, knows it will have to amp up its level of play starting today. Boyle said the Buffaloes will have to improve on their field-goal defense and rebounding to have a chance for a good finish in the conference standings.

“Defense and rebounding comes from a mentality and a philosophy you have,” he said. “We’re working on both of those.”

Anderson is impressed with the Buffaloes, who have scuttled last year’s Princeton-style offense for a speedier attack.

“They’re playing some pretty good basketball, playing a lot freer,” he said. “The name of the game is to score and they’re doing that.”

Colorado is seventh in the country in scoring, averaging 84.8 points per game, led by Grandview, Mo., product Alec Burks’ 19.1 per contest. Cory Higgins (16.6) and Marcus Relphorde (12.1) are also averaging in double figures.

“They’re putting the ball in the hole,” Anderson said “We’ve got a tremendous task ahead of us to guard everyone, they’ve got a lot of weapons.”

Anderson knows the Tigers have to increase their intensity in conference play.

“There is a sense of urgency every game, every play,” he said. “You have to play every play like it’s your last.

“You hope some of the non-conference games helped because we found some ways to win. It’s going to take those kinds of efforts for us to be successful because the conference is dynamite. You can’t take any nights off.”

Missouri, 8-6 in its Big 12 openers, has won its last eight games against Colorado. The Tigers will play their conference home opener Wednesday against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

The Tigers were picked to finish fifth in a preseason poll by conference coaches, while the Buffaloes were tabbed to finish ninth.

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