COLUMBIA, Mo. — First-year University of Central Arkansas Coach Corliss Williamson wants his team to see what a high-speed, pressure-oriented basketball teams looks like.
The Bears will get an up-close and personal chance against one of the best in the country Saturday when they take on the 13th-ranked Missouri Tigers at 7 p.m. at Mizzou Arena. Tigers basketball uses the motto, "The Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball,’ and for good reason.
The Tigers (9-1), under the direction of Williamson’s old friend and mentor Mike Anderson, are up-tempo from the time the lights come on until they go off. That system has earned them two consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, including a trip to the Elite Eight in 2009.
We want our guys to get a chance to play against a team that plays the kind of basketball that we are trying to emulate," said Williamson, who won a national championship as a player at Arkansas under coach Nolan Richardson and his top assistant, Anderson. "They play the up-tempo style we want to play as well as anyone in the country.
"We want to get to that level and this game will help us see where we are and what we need to improve on to get there.’
The Tigers are averaging 82.9 points per game, 12th in the nation, and rely on the famous pressure defense that Anderson and Williamson learned under Richardson. Missouri has forced 203 turnovers in 10 games and have recorded nearly 100 steals.
Anderson, in his fifth season, has five players scoring in double figures, led by 6-foot-3 junior guard Marcus Denmon at 16.4 points. One of those five, sophomore Michael Dixon, is suspended indefinitely and is not expected to play Saturday. Forward Ricardo Ratliffe, a 6-8, 240-pound junior, is averaging 11.7 points and a team-high 7.7 rebounds.
"They have very talented athletes who fit the type of system they play,’ said Williamson. "They know what they are trying to do and they are very good at doing it. It’s going to be a tough task for us, but I think it will be good for us, too.’
The Bears (3-7) are coming off a 70-60 loss to Grambling State last weekend in the Etech Lumberjack Classic at Stephen F. Austin. The Bears are led in scoring by senior guard Imad Qahwash, who is scoring 11.8 per game off the bench. UCA will be playing without junior guard Dewan Clayborn of Little Rock who injured an ankle last weekend.