Missouri-Old Dominion Preview
By ALAN FERGUSON
(AP) -- Missouri is off to its best start in 30 years and remains one of four unbeaten teams in Division I. The Tigers, though, have played only one game away from their home state and none in an opponent's arena.
That will change with Friday night's visit to Old Dominion, the first game in a road-heavy stretch for the eighth-ranked Tigers.
Missouri (12-0) will play five of its next eight games on the road, and among those trips is one to face another currently unbeaten team, No. 6 Baylor, on Jan. 21.
The Tigers got some good preparation for that stretch during a 78-74 win over then-No. 25 Illinois last Thursday. Having prevailed by an average of 27.7 points over its first 11 opponents, Missouri needed a surge in the final two minutes to win the annual Braggin' Rights game in St. Louis.
The Tigers also showed they could earn a victory without relying on their top two scorers, Marcus Denmon and Kim English, who each had eight points. Point guard Phil Pressey had 18 points to tie for the team lead with reserve Michael Dixon, who is averaging 22.0 points over the last three games.
"This was our first real test down the stretch. We haven't really had the opportunity to play in a close game like this yet this year, and we know there's going to be a lot more games like this the rest of this season," Pressey said.
Missouri's next opponent has gotten off to an uneven start following back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, but the Monarchs (6-6) haven't proved easy to defeat - even for then-No. 2 Kentucky on Nov. 20.
Old Dominion trailed the Wildcats by a point with seven minutes remaining before falling 62-52. That started a 3-5 stretch, but the Monarchs have suffered four of those defeats by eight points or fewer with two in overtime.
They ended a season-high three-game skid by holding off VMI 81-73 at home last Thursday. Leading scorer Kent Bazemore, averaging 13.2 points, led the way with 18.
The senior swingman was held to four points on 2-of-8 shooting during an 81-58 loss last season at then-No. 10 Missouri. Denmon scored 22 points and Dixon had 18 off the bench for the Tigers, who also beat Old Dominion 66-61 in the 2009 South Padre Island Invitational.
Missouri, which has a 4-0 series lead, is the second-highest ranked team to play at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. The Monarchs fell 66-48 there to then-No. 5 Georgetown on Nov. 28, 2007.
This game is a homecoming for Tigers starting forward Ricardo Ratliffe. The Hampton, Va., native, averaging 14.3 points and a team-best 6.9 rebounds, is among the nation's leaders in field goal percentage at 76.2.
Updated December 29, 2011