The Missouri Tigers held Texas A&M Aggies star Khris Middleton in check for 19:50 of the second half in their first meeting this season. Before that, Middleton had scored 15 points in the first half, but hadn't scored in the second until he sank a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left in regulation. Then, it seems, they woke a sleeping giant.
In overtime of that game, Middleton scored 11 points, on 4-of-5 shooting, to give the Aggies a 91-89 overtime victory.
And that game exemplifies both the Tigers' and Aggies' seasons.
Mizzou seems to be close in every game, losing when you think they will win. Conversely, the Aggies seem to be close in every game, winning when you think they'll lose.
Mizzou came into the season highly regarded. There was talk in Columbia of a Big 12 title and a deep NCAA run. Texas A&M came into the season with little fanfare, despite five straight NCAA appearances and finishing in the top third in the conference in four of those years.
But as it has routinely been, A&M under promises and over delivers, whereas the Tigers are the opposite (granted there are a few exceptions to both...)
Tonight, both the Tigers and Aggies need to get out of their respective funks. Thanks to Texas Tech, both have recently snapped losing streaks, A&M's two game streak snapped on Saturday against Tech, and Mizzou's three game streak snapped yesterday against the Red Raiders.
Neither are playing at the highest possible level, which evens out this game a lot. The winner will be the one who dominates their facet of the game. For Mizzou, that's the outside game. For A&M, it's inside.
The match-up to key in on will be Middleton and Kim English, who because of size and playing style will probably be put on each other. Middleton takes plays (and sometimes halves) off, and Kimmie is best against a guy who hovers around the perimeter.
The other thing to watch will be the diminutive guards Phil Pressey and B.J. Holmes battling each other. Both are listed under six feet, and both are about as quick as any two guards in the conference.
As for a winner. If the Mizzou big men get into the foul trouble they got into on Wednesday this one is A&M's for the taking. If their big men can remain foul-free, and their guards hit shots like they did against Tech, Mizzou will advance.