Texas A&M-Missouri Preview
By ALAN FERGUSON
(AP) -- It's been nearly eight years since Missouri earned a win over Texas A&M. The fifth-ranked Tigers would seem to have one of their best chances to end that drought when the struggling Aggies visit Monday.
Missouri (16-1, 3-1 Big 12) has dropped eight in a row to Texas A&M since a 74-68 victory in the 2004 conference tournament, but the Aggies head into Columbia having gone 2-5 following an 8-1 start.
After finishing 24-9 in 2010-11, Texas A&M was picked as one of the preseason favorites to win the Big 12 title along with Kansas. The Aggies were also ranked 20th in the initial AP poll - five spots ahead of Missouri - and remained in the rankings until Dec. 19.
The cause for Texas A&M's struggles is an offense that's barely outpaced its defense with 62.4 points per game. The Aggies (10-6, 1-3) were held to an average of 51.0 points on 32.6 percent shooting in their first three conference games before a 67-54 win over last-place Texas Tech on Saturday.
"Couldn't go 0-4," senior guard Dash Harris said. "It's tough being 1-3, but just knowing that we needed this win, pretty much back against the wall. That's what we needed."
The Aggies remain one of the best defensive teams in the Big 12 - allowing averages of 57.5 points and 36.9 percent shooting - but should get a test Monday. First-year coach Frank Haith's Missouri squad leads the conference with 83.9 points per game and 51.2 percent shooting, including 40.1 percent from beyond the arc.
"I know (Texas A&M is) very talented and very capable," Haith said. "They were picked to win this league. We have to be ready to play."
The Tigers connected on 53.7 percent of their shots, including 10 of 21 from 3-point range, in an 84-73 win over Texas on Saturday. Ricardo Ratliffe, shooting a NCAA-best 77.4 percent this season, was 10 of 12 while scoring 21 points.
"I just make sure I try to finish the play whenever they look for me," Ratliffe said. "I get down on myself sometimes and my teammates pick me up because I think they don't expect me to miss anymore, either."
Phil Pressey had seven straight points after the Longhorns cut Missouri's 16-point lead to five with 9:40 remaining. The point guard finished with 18 points, 10 assists and zero turnovers.
Leading scorer Marcus Denmon (17.9 points per game) had 18 points and a career-high 11 rebounds after being held to a season-low six points during a 76-69 win at Iowa State on Wednesday. Denmon averaged a team-best 20.5 points in two losses to Texas A&M last season.
Denmon and Ratliffe had 19 points apiece last season in College Station, but the No. 15 Tigers fell 91-89 in overtime to the No. 14 Aggies as Khris Middleton scored 11 of his 28 points in the extra period. Middleton, who missed seven games following knee surgery earlier this season, shares Texas A&M's scoring lead (13.2 ppg) with Elston Turner, a transfer from Washington.
Senior forward David Loubeau, one of four Aggies averaging double figures in points, scored his team's first eight points and finished with 20 during an 86-71 win over Missouri in last year's Big 12 tournament.
Texas A&M hasn't visited Columbia since a 77-74 win on Feb. 3, 2010. Loubeau scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half and the Aggies held the Tigers without a basket for more than 10 minutes while snapping their 32-game home win streak.
Missouri is 61-3 there over the past four seasons with the other two losses coming to Kansas. The Tigers should get plenty of other chances to host the Aggies as both schools will head to the SEC next season.
This game is also a reunion for Aggies first-year coach Billy Kennedy, who was an assistant at Miami under Haith in 2005-06.
A win by Kennedy's team would tie the all-time series at 11.
Updated January 16, 2012