Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — The Missouri men’s basketball team won’t need any added motivation when it hosts North Carolina State today at Mizzou Arena (5 p.m., SECN).
The Tigers are looking to bounce back from a 36-point drubbing at Arizona and pick up their first non-conference win against Power-5 team under second-year coach Kim Anderson.
But if any Tiger brings some extra juice tonight, it will be Terrence Phillips.
Phillips, a freshman, will be playing three of his former teammates from Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) in Lennard Freeman and twins Caleb Martin and Cody Martin.
“It’s always fun to compete, especially against your Oak Hill family,” said Phillips, Missouri’s starting point guard. “We always used to talk trash about each other, against the other teams, so it’ll be fun to compete against them.”
Phillips hasn’t been doing any of that trash-talking this week, however.
“I think I’ll wait until after the game and then we’ll talk a little bit,” he said. “So no sparks get fired.”
Fellow Missouri freshman Kevin Puryear said Phillips had mentioned this game will mean a little more to him.
“He definitely wants this game, beating his teammates,” Puryear said. “I want to win it for him and I want to win it for this team and this university. I think this will be overall a great win for the city of Columbia in general.”
Despite being an underclassman, Anderson said Phillips has been one in a committee of leaders for Missouri this season.
“I think he’s got that personality,” Anderson said. “Now, he has his moments, too, I think, where he struggles a little bit. I think he’s one of the guys that can lead on the court by the way he plays. He plays hard all the time.”
Phillips has hardly gone a game this season without diving over some obstacle trying to keep a loose ball inbounds.
“Shoot, coming in I wasn’t expecting that out of him,” said Ryan Rosburg, the team’s only senior. “He feels like he’s a veteran. And I know that he hasn’t experienced a lot of things that some of us older guys have had, but he knows what he’s talking about and has everyone’s respect and everyone looks to him for leadership, even the guys that are older than him.”
Puryear’s not surprised.
“It’s something that he’s known his whole life,” he said. “He’s a born leader, and I really appreciate him for that. I really love the kid, and he does a great job for us, keeping us all in line. He’s a great leader on the court, and he’s going to do great things here.”
Caleb and Cody Martin, who were seniors when Phillips was a high-school sophomore, average 14.1 and 6.6 points per game, respectively. Freeman, a year older than the twins, averages 4.7 points a game to go with his 7.4 rebounds.
The Wolfpack are led by Anthony “Cat” Barber and his 21.1 points per game. Barber hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat High Point 76-73 on Wednesday and improve N.C. State’s record to 7-3.
Before that shot — and that game, in which Barber made 3-of-5 3-pointers — Missouri assistant coach Rob Fulford had scouted Barber and found he had struggled from deep.
“So there goes that theory,” Anderson said.
“He’s definitely an elite scorer and an elite defender,” Puryear added. “Just an elite player, All-American candidate so we just have to contain him as best we can and take everybody else out of the picture. I think we’re fully capable of doing it, so we just have to go out and compete.”
Missouri’s last Power-5 win against a non-conference team actually came against N.C. State, under Frank Haith on Dec. 28, 2013. The Tigers won that game 68-64 in Raleigh, N.C., before losing their first 10 non-conference games against non-mid majors under Anderson.
“It’s just something we need to win and I guess get over that hump and win against a big-time Power 5 school,” said Rosburg, one of two current Tiger players who played in that game.