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UCLA, Missouri square off in battle of 8-0 teams

Missouri players (from left) Shane Rector, Tony Criswell and Johnathan Williams III fight each other for a rebound during the first half of Thursday’s game with West Virginia in Columbia.

Missouri players (from left) Shane Rector, Tony Criswell and Johnathan Williams III fight each other for a rebound during the first half of Thursday’s game with West Virginia in Columbia. Photo by The Associated Press.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — It’s time to see what the Missouri Tigers are really made of.

The 18th-ranked UCLA Bruins (8-0) pay a visit to Mizzou Arena at 11:30 a.m. today (KRCG-TV), finally providing Missouri (8-0) with a good barometer to see where it stands.

“It’s a great opportunity to play against one of the best teams in the country,” Missouri head coach Frank Haith said. “… It’s about doing things to help us, help our program, help our resume. I think UCLA gives us that opportunity.”

Added Missouri forward Ryan Rosburg: “We’re ready to go against the best and see where we are.”

It’s a de facto Las Vegas Invitational championship game. Both Missouri and UCLA went 4-0 in round-robin play, with the Tigers and Bruins each beating Nevada and Northwestern. Missouri defeated Gardner-Webb and IUPUI, while UCLA beat Morehead State and Chattanooga.

Now Missouri and UCLA get a chance to settle the score.

It’s also an opportunity for the Tigers to exact a measure of revenge. UCLA wrestled away a 97-94 overtime victory from Missouri in Los Angeles last season.

“I don’t use the word revenge,” Haith said.

But that doesn’t mean Missouri doesn’t want to dish out a little payback.

“We definitely want to beat them. It was tough loss out there,” Missouri guard Jabari Brown said. “Hopefully we can come in here and get a good win against them.”

Nobody has been able to slow the Bruins yet. UCLA ranks sixth in the nation scoring 90.6 points per game and sits in second by hitting 55.3 percent of its shots.

“Man, they’re talented, they’re really talented,” Haith said. “I think they’re better than they were last year. … I would venture to believe they’re a top-10 team the way they’re playing right now.”

UCLA’s opponents have only come within single digits once this season, a 72-67 season-opening victory against Drexel. It’s been all blowouts aside from that.

“We’ve played good teams all year, but that’s probably the best team that we’ll see so far,” Rosburg said.

The Bruins’ attack starts with Jordan Adams, a 6-foot-5 guard who averages 21.5 ppg while hitting 40 percent of his 3-pointers. Freshman Zach Lavine hits a whopping 56 percent of his 3s on his way to 14.4 ppg. Kyle Anderson adds 14 ppg and Norman Powell tosses in 12.3.

“They all can really shoot the ball,” Haith said. “… They put four guys out there that can make a 3.

“Then you throw on top of that (head coach Steve Alford’s) size with the Wear twins (Travis and David) and (Tony) Parker. They’ve got a really good team.”

Those Wear twins stand at 6-foot-10. David Wear averages 7.6 ppg and 5.3 rebounds, while his brother Travis contributes 6.2 ppg and 2.2 rpg.

“I remember last year they tore us up, played real well,” Rosburg said of the Wear twins. “They can shoot the ball too. We’ll definitely have to work on that as opposed to just guarding back-to-the-basket post players. Those guys can step out. It will definitely be a different challenge for us, but playing against the best guys is why you come here. I’m really looking forward to that.”

Travis scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while David had 16 points and six rebounds during last year’s matchup.

A stiff test awaits the Tigers. But it’s one that headlines a massive day for the University of Missouri. Following the basketball game on CBS, the Missouri football team plays Auburn for the SEC title at 3 p.m. on the same TV station.

“What does that do for the Mizzou brand?” Haith asked rhetorically. “For six hours that day, it’s Mizzou.”

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