Bragging rights are on the line once again at the Enterprise Center Saturday night when the Missouri Tigers and University of Illinois Illini meet for the 49th time. Missouri will look to keep this rivalry relevant as they try to end the Illini’s 5 game win streak in the series.
The 2017 meeting was one to forget for a tournament bound Missouri team as they had serious ball control issues. The Tigers had 21 turnovers en route to a 70-64 loss in a game that they were favored. The Illinois got a dominate performance from sophomore Trent Frazier scoring 22 points off of the bench. The loss a tough one to take for most Mizzou fans as they were the favored team, they did have the big-time recruits even without Michael Porter Jr. This loss stung for the Tiger faithful, they will look to avenge this loss and the Illinois dominance on Saturday night.
If this game didn’t have enough intrigue to it the Tigers have three players that originally committed to Illinois on their roster in Jeremiah Tilmon, Mark Smith and Javon Pickett. The Illini faithful will undoubtable bring their full focus of hatred to these players, which will make for an even more raucous atmosphere. Despite the two teams not being highly ranked, this game still has plenty of intrigue to the St. Louis community.
The actual game will be an interesting matchup of differing styles. Missouri brings a hard-nosed defensive effort against a faster Illini attack. Illinois allows 12 offensive rebounds per game while also being the sixth most foul prone team in the nation. Jeremiah Tilmon has continued to develop most recently dominating the boards against a respectable Xavier team that defeated Illinois earlier in the season. Ball control will be the name of the game for Mizzou, the offense will have to break the pressing Illini and be able to set up their half court offense. If Tilmon is allowed to establish himself on the block early it will open up shots for guards Jordan Geist and Mark Smith.
It will be a bitter sweet pill for Illini fans to swallow if it is Tilmon and Smith that make the difference on Saturday night. Illinois will have to feed off of the crowd to establish their style. Madness and energy from the crowd and in game will make the difference.
Illinois was able to establish their tempo last year. The addition of Mark Smith will allow the Tigers to control the tempo better and the advantage on the inside is just too much to overcome for Illinois.
Tigers when in an ugly one: 68-60.