Missouri-Texas A&M Preview

The Associated Press

A pair of decisive victories in its own building kept Missouri in contention for a Big 12 title.

Road games have been more of a struggle recently.

Coach Frank Haith thinks his third-ranked Tigers are in for another close game when he returns to Texas A&M on Saturday afternoon and tries to lead his program to its first win there in 11 years.

Missouri (24-2, 11-2) has won six straight overall, but both of its losses this season have come on the road, where its last three wins have come by a total of five points.

After winning its previous three games - two on the road - by a combined seven points, Missouri returned home to defeat then-No. 6 Baylor 72-57 last Saturday and Oklahoma State - one of two teams to beat the Tigers this season - in an 83-65 rout Wednesday.

Marcus Denmon had 17 points Wednesday to lead five Missouri players in double figures and push his team back into a tie with arch-rival Kansas for the Big 12 lead. Denmon is shooting 57.4 percent (31 of 54) overall and 51.5 percent from 3-point range (17 of 33) over his last four games.

Missouri has lost its five visits to College Station, where it hasn't won since Feb. 17, 2001. The Tigers nearly ended that drought last season before falling 91-89 in overtime. Denmon and Ricardo Ratliffe - the nation's current leader in field goal percentage (73.4) - had 19 points apiece for Missouri, while Khris Middleton scored 28 to lead the Aggies (13-12, 4-9).

Texas A&M held Missouri to 40.4 percent shooting in Columbia on Jan. 16 but shot even worse (35.4 percent) itself en route to a 70-51 loss that ended an eight-game overall winning streak in the series.

Haith, though, is expecting a different game in this matchup with Aggies coach Billy Kennedy, an assistant under him at Miami in 2005-06.

"Texas A&M is playing a lot better, and will be in full force," he said. "I know their coach very well and I know that they will play great defense, they'll play physical. We played well (at home) but I know when we go there, they're going to attack us in the paint, so we're going to have to defend the paint against them."

The Aggies are averaging 61.4 points - nearly seven fewer than in 2010-11. They do remain one of the Big 12's best defenses, allowing an average of 63.4 points in conference play.

Texas A&M snapped a season-high, four-game skid by rallying for a 47-38 win at last-place Texas Tech on Tuesday. Defense once again carried the Aggies, who won despite shooting 34.0 percent. Leading scorer Elston Turner (14.6 ppg) was the only player in double figures with 16.

Haith is making his first appearance at Texas A&M since he was an associate head coach there in 1996-97. He also served as an assistant in College Station from 1992-95 before leaving for Penn State.

Despite Texas A&M's recent run of dominance, Missouri holds a 12-10 lead in the all-time series between these future SEC programs.

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