The battle of the cats

Photo by Max Arnold

Aaron Carter, 23 Sports

Tuesday, February 21—

The Missouri Tigers have had this February match-up circled since the beginning of the season- and for good reason, as it is by far the biggest game the Tigers will play this year. The infamous Kentucky Wildcats, headed by John Calipari, will come to Columbia on Tuesday night and the Tigers will try to put the big cats on upset alert.

Kentucky is tied for first in the SEC with the Florida Gators and are ranked 11th in the nation. The Cats have won four straight games, but not all of these have been runaway victories. Kentucky only beat LSU by seven, Alabama by nine and Georgia (just last week) by five. However, a win is a win.

The Missouri Tigers have also been playing well of late, but instead of being able to close out tight games, the Tigers have done just the opposite. After dominating Alabama in the first half, holding the Tide to just 18 points in the first 20 minutes, Missouri coughed up a five-point lead late in the fourth quarter and ended up losing 57-54.

Despite this heartbreaking loss, the Tigers have seen both of their conference wins this season come this month (Arkansas on Feb. 4 and Vanderbilt on Feb. 11). Tennessee was the Tigers’ last opponent, and the Volunteers made a mess out of Mizzou, defeating the Tigers by 20 (70-90).

The big stars for the Wildcats are two players that aren’t comparable to anyone Missouri has faced this season in terms of sheer talent and athletic ability. Those two players, Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox, are two players at the top of almost everyone’s NBA mock draft.

Monk is the team’s leading scorer with 21.4 points per game. He has put up amazing performances throughout the year, such as the game against North Carolina (which Kentucky won 103-100) when Monk dropped 47 points and eight 3-pointers. This kind of offensive potential is something that intrigues many NBA scouts and should be terrifying to Missouri.

Fox is also playing out of his mind; leading the team in assists at 5.4 per game, he is the team’s best passer who often connects with Monk one way or another. Fox is no slouch scoring the basketball either, as the freshman averages 15.6 points per game (good for second on the team).

Missouri will have to throw a lot of different looks at these two players if it wants to even hope of slowing them down. The Tigers did well against Alabama, when they held the Tide to a 2-for-20 start from the field, at mixing up defensive schemes from zone to man throughout the game. A similar strategy should be warranted this game by Kim Anderson and the coaching staff, who are trying to get a signature win on their résumé before the season is over.

The game will begin at 8 p.m. at Mizzou Arena.