With Michael Dixon suspended indefinitely, Missouri will likely rely on freshman Phil Pressey as its starting point guard for the immediate future.
Before the 13th-ranked Tigers head into a highly anticipated showdown, Pressey will try to continue getting acclimated to his new role Saturday night against visiting Central Arkansas.
Missouri coach Mike Anderson looked to Pressey after penalizing Dixon on Wednesday for an unspecified violation of team rules. The sophomore, averaging 10.7 points and a team-best 4.3 assists, was on the bench in street clothes during an 81-62 victory over Oral Roberts on Thursday night.
“We have high standards for how we expect our young men to carry themselves,” Anderson said. “Michael didn’t meet those standards, therefore he is suspended indefinitely.”
Pressey, whose father Paul is an assistant coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers, scored eight points and had seven assists after recording a career-best nine in a 70-55 home win over Presbyterian on Dec. 11.
Laurence Bowers led Missouri (9-1) with 17 points, one shy of matching his season high, after scoring in single digits over the three previous games.
“I thought our guys did a good job of rallying around (Pressey),” Anderson said. “You can see he’s got a lot of things you can’t teach, and our guys are getting a little bit more familiar with him each and every game. He’s got some things to learn, but the only way to learn those is through playing.”
Pressey could get one more chance to learn before possibly starting against No. 12 Illinois in the annual Braggin’ Rights game in St. Louis on Wednesday night.
The Tigers’ inaugural matchup with the Bears (3-7) will be against a team that’s beaten just one Division I opponent this season.
Anderson was an assistant coach on Arkansas’ 1994 national championship squad that featured Williamson as a starter.
Williamson has tried to implement the same pressure defense that Anderson learned from former Razorbacks coach Nolan Richardson. Central Arkansas is creating 18.0 turnovers per game, while Missouri is again among the national leaders in forcing 20.3 per contest.
“We want our guys to get a chance to play against a team that plays the kind of basketball that we are trying to emulate,” Williamson said. “They play the up-tempo style we want to play as well as anyone in the country.”
Senior guard Imad Qahwash leads the Bears with 11.8 points per game, but junior swingman Mark Rutledge scored a combined 33 points over the two contests in Texas.
Missouri is seeking a season high-tying fifth straight win and its 54th in a row at home over a non-conference opponent.