The No. 20 Arizona Wildcats will play in their first true road game of the season Saturday, traveling to Columbia, Missouri to take on the Missouri Tigers.
It may be the first road game, but it is not the first time the Wildcats (7-2) will be venturing away from McKale Center.
They opened the season in Honolulu where they beat Michigan State, then split a pair of games against Santa Clara and Butler in Las Vegas and, most recently, were in Los Angeles where they lost to Gonzaga.
“We’ve played away from McKale now four times,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. “So like I told the guys, playing in Vegas is new. I thought Butler had a great crowd against us. When we were in Hawaii, Michigan State had a really good crowd. We, of course, had our fans but even in L.A., Gonzaga had a great group. We’ve played in an NBA arena, we’ve played in Hawaii, we’ve played in Vegas on back-to-back nights, so we haven’t just been camped out here (in Tucson).”
Nonetheless, the trip to Columbia still represents the first collegiate road game for several players on this young Arizona squad.
“I think we’ll be fine,” Miller said. “Is it going to be a little different? Sure, but we’re playing an SEC opponent, an opponent that we beat here a year ago, I’m sure they remember that, and we’re going to have to be ready. We know that. We’re going to have to play great and that’s our goal, to go there and play our best.”
The Wildcats are coming off a 79-57 win over UC Irvine, in which they deployed a 2-3 zone for the first time this season, and it could be used a change of pace for Arizona moving forward.
Including Saturday’s contest versus the Tigers, Arizona has four non-conference games left on its schedule, and Miller said it’s all about the Wildcats “surviving” before Pac-12 play begins.
“It’s about trying to be the most ready we can be everyday, improving, and seeing what each game brings us,” he said.
Arizona is expected to be limited to just seven scholarship players against Missouri as Allonzo Trier‘s status remains uncertain and starting point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright is out for the next several weeks with a high-ankle sprain he suffered on Nov. 30.
Trier has missed Arizona’s first nine games due to unspecified reasons and it is unclear when or if he will return. The UA has made no comment on his status, though he was cleared by the NCAA to travel with the Wildcats when they headed to L.A. last Saturday.
It is not known if Trier will be with the team in Missouri, but it does seem likely unless his status with the NCAA has changed since last week.
With Trier and Jackson-Cartwright sidelined, walk-on Tyler Trillo has emerged as Arizona’s eighth man. The 5-foot-11 guard had two assists in 13 minutes in the Wildcats’ win over UC Irvine.
Missouri is 5-3 this season with its best win coming against Western Kentucky. The Tigers did take Xavier to overtime, but the Musketeers escaped with a 83-82 in Florida.
The Tigers return several players from a season ago, including leading returning scorer Kevin Puryear.
Puryear is averaging 12.5 points per game this season — good for second on the team. The 6-foot-7 forward is leading the Tigers in rebounding, tracking down 6.4 boards per contest.
Freshman Frankie Hughes is Missouri’s leading scorer this season. The 6-foot-4 guard is averaging 14.0 points per game, but is doing so at an inefficient clip, hitting just 34.2 percent of his field goal attempts and 28.6 percent of his 3s.
The Tigers as a whole do not shoot well from the perimeter.
They are making just 29 percent of their 3-pointers, but they do excel at keeping their opponent from sinking them as well. Opposing teams are shooting just 23.7 percent from beyond the arc against Missouri this season — the lowest percentage in the entire country.
In total, Missouri is shooting 41 percent this season and holding opponents to a 35.9 field goal percentage. The Tigers are ranked as the 277th-best offensive team in the country, per Kenpom.com, and 63rd on defense. Arizona is 21st and 38th, respectively.
The Tigers are fourth in the nation in block percentage (4.4) and 13th in steal percentage (6.0).
Unlike Arizona, the Tigers use a deep rotation of players. They have nine players that average 14 or more minutes per game. And while Arizona has two 7-footers in its frontcourt, Missouri’s tallest starter is 6-foot-8, and its tallest rotation player — Reed Nikko — is 6-foot-10.
Missouri is coached by Kim Anderson, who is in his third season at the helm, compiling a 24-47 record.
The Wildcats beat Missouri 88-52 in Tucson last season and are 3-1 against the Tigers all-time.
How to watch Saturday’s game
Time: 10 a.m. MST
Projected starting lineups
- C: Dusan Ristic — 7’0”, 245 lbs — 9.7 PPG, 6.3 REBs, 50.7 FG%
- F: Lauri Markkanen — 7’0”, 230 lbs — 17.8 PPG, 7.2 REBs, 52.0 FG%, 46.3 3PT%
- F: Rawle Alkins — 6’5”, 220 lbs — 11.8 PPG, 4.1 REBs, 48.7 FG%, 37.9 3PT%
- G: Kobi Simmons — 6’5”, 175 lbs — 11.3 PPG, 1.8 REBs, 1.7 ASTs, 42.7 FG%, 32.1 3PT%
- G: Kadeem Allen — 6’3”, 205 lbs — 8.9 PPG, 3.5 REBs, 2.4 ASTs, 48.2 FG%, 33.3 3PT%
- F: Kevin Puryear — 6’7”, 243 lbs — 12.5 PPG, 6.4 REBs, 44.0 FG%, 18.2 3PT%
- F: Russell Woods — 6’8”, 236 lbs — 7.5 PPG, 5.6 REBs, 62.5 FG%
- G: Cullen VanLeer — 6’4”, 208 lbs — 7.5 PPG, 2.1 REBs, 2.1 ASTs, 35.8 FG%, 34.9 3PT%
- G: Terrence Phillips — 5’11”, 180 lbs — 8.0 PPG, 4.8 REBs, 4.6 ASTs, 2.3 TOV, 33.9 FG%, 32.1 3PT%
- G: Frankie Hughes — 6’4”, 192 lbs — 14.0 PPG, 3.1 REBs, 34.2 FG%, 28.6 3PT%
You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire for more Arizona basketball coverage.