Missouri men's basketball departed the friendly confines of Mizzou Arena hopeful that a turning point in its season had occurred Jan. 11 with its convincing home victory over Florida.
Consecutive losses at Mississippi State and Alabama thwarted that sense of momentum.
The Tigers return to action in Columbia on Tuesday night against Texas A&M — another valuable opportunity on their home floor before three of their next four games are back on the road.
The Aggies are 8-8 overall and 2-3 in the Southeastern Conference. Their two league triumphs are over Mississippi and Vanderbilt, which have combined for zero SEC wins compared to eight losses. Missouri is 9-8 overall and 1-4 in conference play.
Tip-off against the Aggies is set for 8 p.m. on ESPNU and will be radio broadcast on KTGR (105.1 FM).
Here’s a closer look at the Missouri vs. Texas A&M matchup. Below are projected lineups, players to watch, keys to the game and a score prediction.
Projected Missouri starters: Dru Smith, Mark Smith, Mitchell Smith, Javon Pickett, Reed Nikko
Projected Texas A&M starters: Josh Nebo, Emanuel Miller, Wendell Mitchell, Savion Flagg, Andre Gordon
Missouri player to watch
The Tigers need some sort of spark to increase consistency. One player who could provide that: Mark Smith.
While Smith hasn’t enjoyed as much of an attention-grabbing season as he did a year ago, it wouldn’t take much for the Edwardsville, Illinois, native to reignite that form.
When Smith has been clicking, such as when he made seven 3-pointers against Southern Illinois in December, he provides an onslaught of points not many around the country can match.
Smith has changed up his game a bit this year, with more drives to the hoop instead of relying solely on scoring beyond the arc.
Smith is averaging 11.4 points per game, second on Missouri, and leads the team with a 3-point shooting percentage of 39.3%, among players with multiple attempts.
Texas A&M player to watch
The Aggies will rely heavily on 6-foot-9 senior Josh Nebo against Missouri.
Nebo, second on Texas A&M in minutes, leads his team with 12.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game along with a .707 field goal percentage. The Aggies have 57 total blocks this year, 41 by Nebo.
Nebo will be a handful for whoever guards him, with Mitchell Smith and Reed Nikko likely drawing that responsibility in the continued absence of Jeremiah Tilmon.
Smith and Nikko have faced a gauntlet as of late, going head-to-head with mixed results against Kentucky’s Nick Richards, Florida’s Kerry Blackshear Jr. and Mississippi State’s Reggie Perry. Nebo is next in line for that showdown.
Missouri’s key to the game
After shooting more than 60% from the field against Florida, Missouri scored just 45 points against Mississippi State and netted 31 of its 74 points against Alabama from the free-throw line.
Averaging 44 points from the floor the past two games, the Tigers need to be more aggressive finding shots within their regular offense.
Missouri relies on defense under coach Cuonzo Martin, but MU derails its chances to win games when the offense goes dormant.
Texas A&M’s key to the game
The Aggies haven’t shown much firepower under former Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams, but Williams’ reputation precedes him.
Texas A&M may be catching Missouri at the right time, as the Tigers have just one win in their past five games.
While the Aggies wouldn’t be favored against many SEC teams, they’ve shown potential to hang with any of them.
Texas A&M lost at home to LSU by four last week, and the Tigers from Baton Rouge are the lone SEC team still undefeated in conference play.
Final score prediction
Missouri 74, Texas A&M 66