Most of the season, No. 15 Missouri’s success has been tied to the 1-2 frontcourt production of DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons. Together, the seniors average more than 31 points and 11 rebounds.
In the home finale, the Tigers (24-5, 11-3 Big 12) will need all hands on deck against a player who often approaches those numbers by himself. Sophomore Blake Griffin, arguably the nation’s best player, leads the fourth-ranked Sooners with 22 points and a nation-best 14 rebounds and 23 double-doubles.
“The only way you can contain him is if he’s not playing,” coach Mike Anderson said. “You can’t just guard him with one person. We’re going to pick our poison to disrupt what they do.”
Missouri is 17-0 at home, winning by a nation-best average of 26.1 points. The Tigers need that home court advantage to get over an embarrassing 90-65 blowout loss at Kansas on Sunday that was never close.
On Wednesday, the schools will be fighting for second place in the conference.
“The best way to fix it is to go play,” Lyons said. “You’ve seen safe Missouri. When you play that way, we’re more prone to make mistakes rather than avoid them.”
Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel discounts the loss that ended Missouri’s seven-game winning streak and rise to prominence in the conference. Capel said he watched the entire Missouri-Kansas game on television and noted the Tigers’ numerous blown lay-ups early in the game fueled Kansas.
“It can get away from you quick in Lawrence, I can tell you that from last year,” Capel said. “If they can make those shots, maybe it’s a little bit different.
“I still think they’re a great team with a good bench.”
Missouri looks to take the fight early to Oklahoma (26-3, 12-2), seeking to erase the bad taste from its Kansas loss. Carroll, Lyons and Keith Ramsey were unable to control Kansas’ Cole Aldrich, who had 19 points, 14 rebounds and two blocked shots.
Carroll blamed a lack of composure and tentative play.
Ramsey said, “We came out too tense and we let the crowd get to us.
“We were going uphill and they were going downhill, so we can’t come out like that again.”
Oklahoma has lost two of three, but is undefeated with a healthy Griffin. He sustained a concussion early in a loss to Texas and did not dress in a loss to Kansas.
Oklahoma likes to run as much as Missouri does, although Capel said the Sooners will have to be smart and avoid getting run down by the Tigers’ 11-man rotation.
“We’ll play nine or 10 players and we think our guys are in really good shape,” Capel said. “That’s their strength, that’s what they do.
“But we think we’re a very efficient offensive team.”
The game will be also be the home finale for Matt Lawrence, the Tigers’ top 3-point threat off the bench, and Mike Anderson Jr. Missouri has won 18 in a row overall at home in a streak dating to last season while going 3-1 against Top 25 opponents.
“It’s another game against a good opponent,” Carroll said. “And it’s the way you want to go out at home, which is beating a top five opponent.”