COLUMBIA, Mo. - It's become a familiar song and dance for the Missouri basketball team: A road loss followed by a chance to pick up a home win.
No. 21 Missouri returns home to take on Mississippi at noon today (KRCG-TV), trying to bounce back after another road loss in a season that could be slipping away from the Tigers.
It's the second game in three days for Missouri (16-6, 5-4 SEC) following Thursday's 70-68 loss at Texas A&M, dropping the Tigers to 0-5 on the road.
The Rebels (18-4, 7-2 Southeastern Conference) come to Mizzou Arena having lost two of their last three games. But they defeated the Tigers handily, 64-49 on Jan. 12.
It's the best start to the conference season for Mississippi since the 1937-38 season.
"It does help we have a little bit of a familiarity with our opponent there on the back end of it, and I think it helps that you're playing at home on the back end of it," Missouri coach Frank Haith said about playing two games in three days. "Ole Miss is a team relatively fresh in our memories."
Guard Marshall Henderson continues to lead the Rebels in scoring at 20 points and four 3-pointers per game. He scored 22 points and had eight rebounds in the Rebels' win against Missouri earlier this season.
But the Tigers were without leading scorer Laurence Bowers in that game, and it showed early on as Missouri fell behind 9-0. Bowers, who was averaging 16 points per game before his knee injury, is averaging nine points per contest since returning.
"He's a tremendous player," Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy said. "... I know, prior to him going down, the weapon that he is with his versatility. He's shooting the ball from the perimeter, at a very efficient rate, he's athletic. His skill set really makes it difficult because he's another weapon you have to be concerned with."
With Missouri's recent struggles, today's game becomes that much more important for the Tigers. Once seemingly a lock to reach the NCAA Tournament, Missouri has stumbled to a 5-4 mark thanks to four road losses in conference play. That's not a particularly good mark in a conference ranked eighth nationally in the Ratings Power Index, behind the Mountain West and Atlantic 10.
But today's game would be a chance for Missouri to pick up a quality win that will likely be needed come NCAA Tournament time. Missouri is 9-0 against teams outside the top 150 in the RPI, but just 7-6 against teams ranked 150 or higher.
Notes: After today, the Tigers hit the road for a pair of games beginning Wednesday at Mississippi State and then Saturday against former coach Mike Anderson and Arkansas. ... Point guard Phil Pressey needs just three assists to break the school record for career assists held by Anthony Peeler. Peeler had 497 assists from 1988-92.