Top 10 Tigers await Cyclones in final road game

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ISU guard Scott Christopherson pulls up for a jumper during the second half of Iowa State’s 65-61 win over Kansas State on Saturday, Feb. 25. Christopherson shot 10-of-13 (77 percent) in the game, and his 29 points was the third time this season he’s scored more than 20 points in a game.

Dan Tracy

Missouri’s record has changed with two losses in the last eight days, but ISU coach Fred Hoiberg said the Tigers’ talent and style of play have not changed much at all.

“They’re still really fast; they still shoot it really well; they’re still really good,” Hoiberg said in his weekly press conference on Monday.

The No. 7 Tigers (25-4, 12-4 Big 12) lost an overtime thriller 87-86 at No. 3 Kansas on Saturday after squandering a 19-point second-half lead against the Big 12 regular-season champion Jayhawks.

“Obviously it was a tough game to get through. … I felt like we should have won the game, and we didn’t,” said Missouri coach Frank Haith in a teleconference on Monday. “But we do have to move on, we’ve got a huge game on Wednesday against Iowa State.”

That “huge game” on Wednesday night will be at 7 p.m. in Mizzou Arena as Iowa State (21-8, 11-5 Big 12) hits the road for the final time this regular season.

The Cyclones, who are 4-4 in Big 12 road games this season, will place extra emphasis on their pick and roll coverage and transition defense this week in preparation for the league’s highest-scoring team at 79.4 points per game.

“Down there [in Columbia], especially in their building they play so fast,” Hoiberg said. “So getting back in transition is going to be the No. 1 thing.”

Before taking the court at Hilton Coliseum for the final time on Saturday against Baylor, ISU senior guard Scott Christopherson will try and avenge Iowa State’s 76-69 home loss to the Tigers on Jan. 11.

“It’s a huge opportunity,” Christopherson said. “I think we feel like we did some things in that game that kind of gave the game away, so we’re looking forward to going down there and trying to correct those mistakes from last time.”

While Missouri’s four-guard starting lineup steals many headlines, Christopherson said on Monday that Iowa State cannot forget about the forward in Mizzou’s lineup: 6-foot-8-inch senior Ricardo Ratliffe. The third-leading scorer on the team at 13.8 points per game, Ratliffe is as efficient an offensive big as there is in the country. The forward has made 71.2 percent of his field goals, which is second-best in the nation.

“He’s a physical specimen and does so many things as far as being able to set good screens and dive to the basket that open things up for their perimeter players,” Christopherson said of Ratliffe. “He’s very similar to [ISU forward Royce White] in that he does a lot of things that open up lanes for their guards so we’re definitely going to have a plan in place to try to take him out as much as possible.”

In addition to Ratliffe, 6-foot-9-inch, 267-pound senior Steve Moore will be a load to handle in the paint for the Cyclones. The Kansas City, Mo., native tied a season-high with 10 points and snagged a season-high nine rebounds.

“Their guards get a lot of attention, but sometimes big guys go a little bit more unnoticed than they should,” Christopherson said.

With two final regular season games against the league’s No. 2 and No. 3 teams left on the schedule, Hoiberg understands the challenge but also sees opportunities for improvement with his team as it prepares for the postseason.

“These last two going into Missouri [who is] coming off of a loss we know it’s going to be difficult but we’re going to go down there and throw everything we have at them and see what happens,” Hoiberg said. “It’s two great opportunities, and our guys will be ready; they’ll be prepared, and I think we’ll play well.”