Missouri coach Mike Anderson is pleased with how his team is playing. A game at Bramlage Coliseum could change the way he feels.
The 20th-ranked Tigers look to extend their longest Big 12 winning streak in two seasons to five Saturday when they try to avoid a seventh straight road loss to Kansas State, which is also making a strong late-season push.
Coming off their first Big 12 road win of the season - 76-70 over Iowa State last Saturday - the Tigers (22-6, 8-5) improved to 17-0 at home with Wednesday’s 77-59 victory over Baylor. Missouri has won four straight in Big 12 play for the first time since a 7-0 stretch from Jan. 31-Feb. 25, 2009.
“It’s all starting to come together now,” Anderson said.
While the Tigers are fourth in the Big 12 - a game ahead of fifth-place Kansas State - and in good position for a first-round bye in the conference tournament, they could be tested with their next two on the road.
Before visiting Nebraska on Tuesday in the Cornhuskers’ final home game as a Big 12 team, the Tigers look to end a six-game skid at Kansas State dating to Feb. 28, 2004.
The Wildcats (19-9, 7-6), who play at No. 5 Texas on Monday, have won five straight conference home games for the first time since a 6-0 run from Jan. 19-Feb. 16, 2008. If Kansas State equals that mark with its fourth consecutive victory overall, it will tie Missouri with two games left.
Jacob Pullen is a big reason the Wildcats are in this position. He heard chants of “NIT!, NIT!” in a 75-59 loss at Missouri on Jan. 17 that dropped the team to 1-3 in the Big 12, and he even said following a defeat at Colorado on Feb. 12 that he would not play in the NIT if Kansas State didn’t make the NCAA tournament. The senior guard now has the squad heading in the right direction thanks to the best three-game scoring stretch of his career.
Pullen had a career-high 38 points in an 84-68 home win over then-No. 1 Kansas on Feb. 14, and he scored 27 in each of the last two games to improve his average to a career-best 19.5 - second in the Big 12.
He had 20 in the second half of Wednesday’s 61-57 victory at Nebraska to move within seven of 2,000 for his career.
Pullen, who scored 16 points in the Jan. 17 loss, will likely be guarded by Marcus Denmon in this matchup.
The junior guard leads the Tigers with 16.5 points per game, but he is also one of the league’s best defenders. Denmon helped Missouri limit conference scoring leader LaceDarius Dunn to a season-low 12 points Wednesday.
That game also saw Ricardo Ratliffe post a second-straight double-double while fellow forward Laurence Bowers had 20 points, nine boards and six of Missouri’s 14 steals.
The Tigers are among the nation’s best in turnovers forced at 18.2 per game, and they caused Kansas State to commit a season-worst 24 last month.
The Wildcats, who won 63-53 in the teams’ last meeting in Manhattan on Feb. 27, is one win shy of reaching 20 for the fifth straight season.
Missouri is 117-115 all-time versus Kansas State.