Alabama drives to first win in Missouri under Nate Oats

Missouri is the “Show Me” state. So far, coach Nate Oats hasn’t brought a team to Columbia that has shown enough to win. The next opportunity is Saturday at 5 p.m. CST at Mizzou Arena (15.061) on SEC Network.

So far this year, the Crimson Tide has performed well, 16-2 overall, 6-0 in Southeastern Conference play and fourth in the nation. Missouri is 14-4, 3-3 in the conference and coming off its third win of a ranked opponent this year, 79-76 against No. 25 Arkansas.

Though Bama leads the all-time streak 12-7, the Tigers have won the last three and have a 5-3 record against the Tide at Columbia.

After Friday morning’s practice before Alabama flew to Missouri, Oats met with reporters. “For whatever reason, Missouri is the only place (in the SEC) we’ve played since I’ve been here without a win,” he said. Oats has yet to bring a team to Texas A&M, but will participate in the final regular season game on March 5th.

“When we were 16-2 (2021) we went up there and were just blown away. Last year we tried to zone and it didn’t work out very well for us.

“We just have to change the narrative about Missouri. We have to go out there, play hard. The first four minutes must be very good.”

He said Bama had good experiences Thursday and Friday after the Tide’s 88-76 win over Vanderbilt in Nashville on Tuesday … and the long bus ride home due to fog that grounded the charter plane.

Turnovers have been a problem for Alabama this year, although the tide was better in SEC play than non-conference. After averaging 16.9 turnovers per game before the SEC, Bama has brought it down to 11.7 per game in league games.

That is cold consolation, however.

Missouri ranks ninth in the nation with forced turnovers of 18.8 per game and third in the nation with a turnover margin of plus 7.1 per game, outperforming opponents at 22.3 to 12.6 points by turnover. The Tigers rank first in the nation with 11.6 steals per game.

Oats said: “If we turn the ball around like we did earlier in the year we won’t give our defense time to overtake them. So if we take care of the ball, we get good shots.”

The Alabama-Missouri match features two of the conference’s top scorers as Alabama’s Brandon Miller ranks first in the SEC and averages 21.6 points per game during the conference, while Mizzou’s Kobe Brown is averaging 18.1 points per Competition scored, ranking No. 4 during SEC games. Miller had three games with 30+ points, including 30 at Vandy.

“Kobe is a kid from Alabama (Huntsville) and he always stands up for us,” Oats said. Speaking of 30, last year Brown scored 30 on the Tide.

He wasn’t recruited by Alabama, but Oats wanted to make it clear that Brown wasn’t recruited by Alabama before Oats arrived. “You can let that out so he doesn’t try to take it out on me. He’s really good. I would like him. He’s a match-up problem and he’s getting better every year.”

Of course, Miller for Alabama and Brown for Missouri have good supporting roles.

For the season, Miller, a 6-9 freshman forward, is leading the tide in goals (20.1 points per game) and rebounds (8.3).

He is joined by 6-3 freshman guard Jaden Bradley (8.7 ppg, team-leading 3.8 assists per game); 6-1 junior guard Mark Sears (14.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg); 6-10 sophomore center Charles Bediako (5.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.9 blocked shots); and 6-10 freshman forward Noah Clowney (9.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg).

Oats pointed out that while Alabama is starting three freshmen, one sophomore and one junior, Missouri is a much older team — four seniors, one junior who is being bolstered through the portal of first-year coach Dennis Gates.

Brown, a 6-8, 250-pound forward, leads the Tigers in points (15.7) and rebounds (5.6).

He is joined by 5-10 senior guard Nick Honor (8.9 ppg, team-leading 3.4 assists); 6-4 senior guard Tre Gomillion (5.3 ppg), 6-4 senior guard D’Moi Hodge (14.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg), and 6-6 junior forward Ronnie DeGray (2.2 ppg, 1, 8 rpgs).

A rarity, Missouri has a slight lead in scoring over Alabama. The Tigers have 84.1 ppg, Bama has 84. The Tide, which has won all six of their SEC games by double digits, allows 69.3 ppg, a plus 14.7 lead. Mizzou gives up 75.4, an 8.7 advantage.

Alabama is pulling down 46 rebounds per game compared to their opponents’ 38.1 plus 7.9. Missouri gets 31.1, concedes 37.2, a deficit of 6.2.