Missouri men’s basketball continues its 2022-23 season against Houston Christian. The Tigers meet the Huskies at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Mizzou Arena in what will be their seventh straight home game.
The game can be seen on SEC Network.
Houston Christian – which changed its name from Houston Baptist in September – has had a bumpy start to the season. The Huskies have lost their last three games and are 1-5 so far this season. Last season, Houston Christian finished 11-18 (6-8 Southland) and lost to Texas A&M – Corpus Christi in the second round of the Southland Conference tournament.
College basketball fans may remember clips of Houston Christian’s wild 149-144 win in four overtime against McNeese. The game became the fourth-highest scoring NCAA Division I basketball match in history.
Both on and off the pitch, the Huskies feel the influence of their former teammate Darius Lee. Lee was tragically killed in June after being shot at a gathering in Harlem, New York.
Lee played for the Huskies in 2021-22 and averaged 18.2 points – including 52 in the McNeese game – 8.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. His 2.4 steals per game last season ranked seventh in the nation. He was named a second-team All-Southland Conference and was named the conference’s Preseason Player of the Year prior to this season. The Huskies also wear a patch on their jerseys to honor Lee.
“It was just devastating,” Houston Christian men’s basketball broadcaster Garrett Jones said. “Especially since they had already put the schedule together, they had already put the roster together, and they built it around this guy, and then all of a sudden he’s completely gone and you have to keep crawling.”
As the Huskies play the 2022-23 season for their fallen teammate, Jones said the team did a good job recruiting staff to fill Lee’s role on the court.
So far this season, the Huskies have shown they can shoot. Houston Christian currently ranks 26th in the country in 3-point field goal percentage, averaging 40.7% per game from deep. Jones said the team’s current top scorer, Brycen Long, who scored a career-high 31 points on a program record nine 3s made against Florida International in the Huskies’ first game, is a player capable of fire to catch from the depths.
Rebounding could be another area where Missouri will be tested on Saturday. MU coach Dennis Gates expressed his frustration after the Tigers were passed by Mississippi Valley State and again in their win over Coastal Carolina. Jones said 6-foot-10 center Bonke Maring could benefit from his size advantage down the field.
“He’s had, you know, two 20-point games in the last two weeks. I mean, he’s someone who could get going if (MU’s Noah) Carter sure doesn’t establish himself on the block.”
Jones also said he wouldn’t be surprised if Houston Christian adjusted to a zone to help him stay in the game.
“They went down badly against Georgia Southern and went into a zone and saw some success and got back into the game,” Jones said. “So I wouldn’t be surprised if we see two zone defenders going head-to-head.”
For Missouri, Jones said D’Moi Hodge could cause problems for the Huskies, particularly on defense. He said Hodge’s ability to get steals could be key to taking out the Huskies’ perimeter players.
“That would certainly give (Houston Christian) seizures,” Jones said. “Because they already have undersized guards. And if they’re going for bigger bodies, that’s going to be difficult for sure.”
Overall, Jones assessed that the Tigers’ aggressive defense and their ability to keep Maring and others uncomfortable will help lead Missouri to a seventh win of the season.
“I think if (Missouri), you know, force an extra steel or two, I think if they somehow establish the color or at least take the color away and put the HCU big ones in bad trouble, I think that would be a wise one that they would really step on the gas in this game,” Jones said.
Notwithstanding MU’s successes in the first six games, Gates claims Missouri still has a long way to go to be successful. He says every game is a chance for the Tigers to work towards future achievements.
“We have to get better at every opportunity and stay as consistent as possible,” Gates said after the game in Coastal Carolina. “Because this consistency will not be easy. There will be outside noises taking place. People want to pat us on the back like we’ve done something, we haven’t done anything yet.”
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