Kennesaw State-Missouri Preview


Missouri is on the verge of securing its best start in 20 seasons, and Frank Haith could pull off a feat that hasn't happened at the school in more than nine decades Thursday night.

The Tigers coach will try to become the first since the 1920-21 season to win his first 10 games with the program when his 10th-ranked team hosts Kennesaw State.

Missouri (9-0) hasn't won 10 or more games to open a season since beginning 11-0 in 1991-92. The Tigers have closed in on that accomplishment by averaging 85.4 points on 50.9 percent shooting, including a 42.2 percent conversion rate from 3-point range.

They're also holding opponents to 59.9 points per game and 39.8 percent shooting while forcing 16.8 turnovers per contest.

As expected, Missouri had few problems during the opener of a three-game homestand Saturday, blowing out unheralded Navy 84-59. The Tigers wrap up that stay Sunday against William & Mary before traveling to St. Louis on Dec. 22 to take on No. 19 Illinois in the annual Braggin' Rights game.

Marcus Denmon once again led the way Saturday with 22 points, the most of five Missouri players in double figures. Ricardo Ratliffe was 6 of 9 from the field while scoring 14 points and is shooting 88.6 percent (31 of 35) over the last four contests.

"We have guys that offensively are capable of scoring in double figures any night," Denmon said. "It depends on the team we're playing and who's making shots that night. But it just shows that we have guys who are capable."

Denmon, a senior guard, is averaging 27.0 points on 56.3 percent shooting in the first three games this month - making 16 of 27 3-point attempts. His efforts have helped Haith match predecessor Mike Anderson's 9-0 start in his first season with the program.

The most recent first-year coach to get off to a better start at the school was Craig Ruby, who led the Tigers to wins in their first 17 games in 1920-21 before a season-ending loss to Kansas State.

Haith has a good chance to improve to 10-0 considering Kennesaw State (2-5) has beaten only one Division I team this season. The Owls have dropped their four all-time matchups with AP Top 25 teams by an average of 31.5 points, including an 85-31 drubbing at then-No. 15 Wisconsin in their season opener Nov. 12.

Kennesaw State was beaten 75-52 in its latest game Dec. 3 at Lipscomb. Leading scorer Markeith Cummings, who's averaging 18.2 points, recorded his seventh career double-double and first this season in the loss with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Senior guard Spencer Dixon is the only other player consistently scoring in double figures (13.3 ppg) and the Owls are averaging only 60.7 points as a team.

Missouri will face Kennesaw State for the first time as it seeks a 65th consecutive home victory against a non-conference foe.

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