January 2, 2009

Tigers take to the road

J.T. Tiller grew up an hour from the University of Georgia campus. But he can't really tell his teammates anything about playing in Athens.

"I've actually never been to a game there," said the Missouri junior. "I've got some cousins and a lot of friends that go there and they've told me it can get pretty crazy."

The Bulldogs haven't exactly posted a resume that supports a huge home court advantage this year. Georgia is 8-and-2 at home, but the most impressive win on the slate is a one-point victory over Virginia Tech. Other than that, the Dawgs beat Wofford at the buzzer, Santa Clara by six and Presbyterian by eight. They have lost home games to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Loyola-Chicago (by 21 points).

Of course, that home resume is more impressive than Missouri's road resume...the Tigers don't even have one. Saturday will be the first true road game Mizzou has played this season.

But even the coach admits he can't be sure what to expect out of his young team in its first road game of th season.

"I think we'll find out that night," Mike Anderson said. "Hopefully, our leadership is ready to step up. I think our guys will be ready."

Of course, Anderson felt the same way prior to the only other game the Tigers have played in what could be called a hostile environment. Mizzou travelled to St. Louis to face Illinois two days before Christmas. The Illini jumped on the Tigers 20-9 out of the gate and Missouri never cut the lead to single digits the rest of the way in a 75-59 loss. Anderson was asked if his team is more ready than it was for that game, which was termed "a disaster" by one reporter.

"That bad?" the coach said with a smile. "I think it just kind of opened up their eyes. They got hit. They got punched."

The Tigers didn't react to that punch very well. They hope things are different this time aroun.

"I think we had a golden opportunity and it passed us up," Matt Lawrence added. "This is just another great opportunity for this young team to show the nation that we're legit."

Missouri has a couple of impressive non-conference wins this season, over Cal and USC. The only two losses have been to Illinois and Xavier, teams that look to be on cruise control toward the NCAA tournament at this point in time. The beginning of the resume is there, but Missouri can add a big notch to its belt with a road win against an SEC team.

Tipoff in Athens is at noon Central on Saturday.

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