COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The Mizzou men's basketball team's first road game of the season will be a good test. The Tigers will head north to face off against Minnesota at Williams Arena, on Thursday.
The Tigers have started the season with three-straight home games, sitting at 2-1 on the year. However, head coach Dennis Gates has hammered home that this season's schedule is much more difficult than his debut season.
"Behind the scenes you see the work. Sometimes, work doesn't always lead to immediate success or outcomes that you want. It takes a little bit more labor, it takes some patience, but also our guys hearts are in the right place," Gates said. "We don't want to not compete, we want to be able to do that, but ultimately during this time, with so many new guys, it allows us to get to know each other in a quicker way with our foot to the fire."
You can watch the full press conference with Gates in the video player below.
It is just the third time in program history that MU will meet Minnesota. The Gophers enter Thursday's game undefeated to start the season, topping both Bethune-Cookman and UTSA to start the year. It's a good start considering Minnesota went 9-22 overall during the 2022-23 season.
Gates had nothing but good things to say about the city, the environment and the opposing coaching staff ahead of the meeting in Big 10 country, but added it will come down to his team concentrating on the things the coaching staff has highlighted through the first three games.
"I'm definitely looking forward to seeing who we are in this hostile environment," he said. "I don't want our guys to panic. When I say panic, I don't want to see them do uncharacteristic things. I want us to just go out and play a good game, the style that we play. Self-inflicted wounds will hurt that. They're gonna make tough shots, they're gonna play well, Minnesota will, but we cannot allow ourselves to get distracted. We have to be okay with what we do and what they do and see what the end of the game entails."
Gates said one of the biggest things he's learned about his team through the first three games is that his group needs to continue to focus on taking care of the basketball. The group has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, but it's not the 2-1 deviation that Coach Gates wants.
"The other thing is being able to bounce back from the Memphis lesson that we learned and coming in with a focus against a well-coached SIUE team, who I think can win their conference. Being able to compete, but also recover how we recovered is something that stands out. More importantly, how and who we are against adversity. I didn't think we handled ourselves accordingly in the second half and I'll do a better job with that, that starts with me. We have to continue to put two halves together," Gates said.
Guard Sean East II has been the MVP to start year two under Gates. East has led the Tigers in each of the first three games this season, averaging about 18 points. He is the first Tiger to lead the team in scoring in the first three games since DeMarre Carroll in 2007-08.
It will be 7-foot-5 center Connor Vanover's first game available for MU. The Oral Roberts transfer served out a three-game suspension to start the season for playing in the Portsmouth Tournament in April. Gates said he doesn't want Vanover to go out and try to make home runs in his first game. It'll be all about playing simple and seeing how he fits into the Tigers' system.
Mizzou will tip off at Minnesota at 8 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on Big 10 Network.