Texas-Missouri Preview

The Associated Press

Following a gritty road win, Missouri is likely pleased to have its next two games in more familiar surroundings.

The ninth-ranked Tigers will try to prevail in the first of those home contests Saturday against a young Texas squad that's struggled outside Austin.

After suffering its first loss at Kansas State last weekend, Missouri responded with a 76-69 victory Wednesday over an Iowa State team that had previously won seven in a row, including its first two Big 12 games.

The Tigers (15-1, 2-1), who use a seven-man rotation, hung on despite Kim English and Steve Moore fouling out over the final 3:22. The Big 12's second-leading scorer Marcus Denmon (17.9 ppg) made four free throws over the final 21 seconds but was his team's only player not in double figures with six points.

"We were mentally tough down the stretch, as far as getting stops and rebounding," said guard Matt Pressey, who had a team-best 14 points. "We've really grown from that standpoint."

The Tigers' next opponent is still growing, judging by coach Rick Barnes' recent comments. Texas (12-4, 2-1) has six freshmen and five upperclassmen on its roster, but only three of those juniors and seniors are seeing significant playing time.

That youth has shown as the Longhorns have one win in five games away from home. They've suffered three of those defeats by six or fewer points but fell 82-63 at then-No. 5 North Carolina on Dec. 21 in the only previous road matchup with a ranked team.

Barnes said after his team's latest game that he's tried to help his young players by spending "a lot of time" in the film room, and by having two walkthroughs before the most recent game Wednesday. That work paid off with a 61-51 win over rival Texas A&M, which will join Missouri in the SEC next season and visit Columbia, Mo., on Monday.

Freshman guard Julien Lewis scored 16 points off the bench and Big 12 leading scorer J'Covan Brown (18.1 ppg) had 14 despite missing 10 of 12 shots.

"I think our guys are learning to play," Barnes said. "The fact is they really tried hard (against Texas A&M)."

The Longhorns have played hard against Missouri for much of their time in the Big 12, having won 11 of 17 conference matchups.

The Tigers, though, have won three of the last four, all against ranked squads, and are 60-3 at home overall in the last four seasons.

They prevailed 82-77 during a visit from then-No. 15 Texas on Feb. 17, 2010, but fell 71-58 in Austin on Jan. 29 to a seventh-ranked team. Then-No. 11 Missouri shot only 33.9 percent in that game, and Phil Pressey was one of two players in double figures with 12 points and five assists off the bench.

English was the other player and the hero during the home win over the Longhorns in 2010, scoring 11 of his 18 points over a six-minute stretch in the second half.

Under former Longhorns assistant Frank Haith, Missouri will try to even the series at 12-all. Barring a postseason matchup, the teams will meet one last time as conference foes Jan. 30 in Austin.

The Tigers will face an unranked Texas team for the first time since 2005, and for the first time at home since 2002. Missouri, meanwhile, will face the Longhorns as a ranked team for the third time since Big 12 play began.

The Tigers lost both of the previous matchups, but each game was at Texas.

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