Missouri is the fifth-highest scoring team in Division I and its ability to score a lot of points quickly helped it escape with a victory in its last game.
After that big win, the 10th-ranked Tigers pit their balanced offense against one of the top scoring players in the country Monday night when they host Xavier Silas and Northern Illinois.
Missouri (11-1), looking to improve to 12-1 for the first time since 1989-90, has had its share of nail biters during a six-game winning streak this month. Victories over Oregon and Vanderbilt to begin December were by a combined six points, the latter coming in overtime.
The Tigers had another scare Wednesday against No. 21 Illinois, but they shocked the Illini with eight points in a nine-second span late in the second half to emerge with a 75-64 win.
“It’s about how you finish games,” forward Laurence Bowers said. “And we finished well.”
Holding on to a one-point lead with 41 seconds left, Bowers converted a four-point play with a layup and two free throws after an intentional foul to help Missouri regain control. He finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots.
The ability to put up points quickly is nothing new for the Tigers, who score 85.0 points per game with five players averaging at least 10. Marcus Denmon averages a team-high 16.7 points and he had 15 on Wednesday to lead five players in double figures.
After passing another test, Missouri is hoping for an easier time over the next two weeks before opening Big 12 play at Colorado on Jan. 8. The Tigers’ next three games are at home, where they have won 54 straight against non-conference opponents since an 80-77 defeat to Sam Houston State on Nov. 14, 2005.
All but seven of those victories have come under coach Mike Anderson, who will go for his 100th win at Missouri on Monday.
While the Tigers have a balanced offense, Northern Illinois (3-6) is led by Silas and he isn’t getting much help.
Silas came into the Huskies’ last game averaging a Division I-best 28.1 points, but he was held to 11 in a 61-49 loss to Southern Illinois on Wednesday while shooting 3 of 19.
“I don’t know that he got frustrated,” coach Ricardo Patton said. “He just had a man draped on him all night and he found it difficult to get open. We still needed other guys to step up, make shots and make plays.”
Silas fell to second in the nation with 26.2 points per game, trailing Connecticut’s Kemba Walker (26.5). None of Silas’ teammates average more than 7.2 points.
The Huskies have lost their last two and four of five.
Northern Illinois added another player to its roster last Monday with DeMarcus Grady, the school’s quarterback, joining the team. The 6-foot-1, 203-pound Grady, who played basketball in high school, is available to play, but Patton said he probably won’t see action until the start of the conference season.
This is the first time these teams have met, although Patton was 10-13 against the Tigers while coaching Colorado from 1996-2007.