UCLA hasn't faced too many challenges in coach Steve Alford's inaugural season but might get one against another unbeaten that hasn't lost on its own floor in nearly two years.
The 18th-ranked Bruins look to open 9-0 by snapping Missouri's NCAA-best, 23-game home win streak Saturday.Alford is off to the best start of any coach in UCLA history and the Bruins have outscored their first eight opponents by an average of 21.7 points. They were tied with UC Santa Barbara with a little more than eight minutes to go Tuesday before pulling away for an 89-76 victory.Leading scorer Jordan Adams had a team-best 22 points, and Kyle Anderson matched a career high with 21 as UCLA secured its best start since beginning 14-0 in 2006-07."We are a young basketball team. We know that," Alford said. "As long as we see progress, we are going in the right direction. I think we saw that progress in the last 10 minutes of the game."The Bruins will try to take another step by topping Missouri (8-0), a team they defeated in overtime last December at Pauley Pavilion. The Tigers, however, were the ranked team in that game (No. 7) and blew a nine-point lead in the final 4 1/2 minutes of regulation.With 12 points, Adams was one of four UCLA players in double figures in that victory. Travis Wear had 22 points and David Wear scored 16, but the twin brothers are averaging in single digits this season. They were held scoreless against UC Santa Barbara.Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross were among the five Missouri players in double figures in the last meeting.Jordan Clarkson, a transfer from Tulsa, is leading the Tigers in scoring this season at 20.1 points -- just ahead of Brown (19.1). Clarkson scored 25 in an 80-71 win over visiting West Virginia on Thursday.Missouri led by 25 with 8:55 remaining before allowing the Mountaineers to get within seven in the final minute. The win was also the school's 78th in a row at home against a non-conference opponent, a streak that began Nov. 20, 2005.Missouri's last home loss of any kind was a 78-68 defeat to Kansas State on Feb. 21, 2012."It's tradition," Clarkson said. "We want to keep that going. Just keep protecting the home court. We can't let anybody come in here and do whatever they want to do."The Tigers, however, have not faced a ranked team during their lengthy run of non-conference home victories. They've won eight of 12 overall against Top 25 teams and seven of the past nine such matchups at home, including a 63-60 win over then-No. 5 Florida on Feb. 19.Missouri will likely have to limit one of nation's top shooting teams to pull off another upset. UCLA is connecting at a 55.3 percent clip and 43.0 percent from 3-point range.The Tigers are shooting 50.7 percent during their strong start and outrebounding opponents by an average of 10.3 boards.UCLA is making its first trip to Columbia in eight matchups and leads the series 6-1.