Study Hall: Mizzou vs Austin Peay

I'd say I'm a bit disconcerted by the lack of defensive execution and the overall breakdowns Mizzou saw at times in this game, but I'm really not.  This team proved too much to me on Wednesday to get too worked up about partially lackadaisical play two days after Christmas in front of a half-full house.  It was frustrating to watch at times, but Mizzou took care of business and is 9-3.  Good enough for me.

Mizzou 94, Austin Peay 79

Mizzou
APSU
Points Per Minute
2.35
1.98
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.32
1.11
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.62
1.27
2-PT FG% 66.7%
52.3%
3-PT FG% 52.6%
33.3%
FT% 60.0%
71.4%
True Shooting % 70.4%
55.4%
Mizzou APSU
Assists 22
15
Steals 12
2
Turnovers 10
16
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
3.40
1.06
Mizzou APSU
Expected Offensive Rebounds 9
13
Offensive Rebounds 6
15
Difference -3
+2


A Step Backwards on the Boards

Mizzou's rebounding wasn't great against Illinois last week (they were -5 in terms of expected rebounds), but overall it was pretty decent.  A couple of 3-board (or more) possessions made the numbers worse than what how they appeared for a majority of the Braggin' Rights game.  A -5 performance against a downright small Austin Peay team, however, is not as impressive.  They got beat on the defensive glass in the first half, and when they got a handle on that, the offensive rebounding disappeared.  For the game, Mizzou grabbed just six offensive rebounds and only two Tigers -- Kim English and Zaire Taylor of all people -- had more than one.  The focus that was there for a majority of the Illinois game just wasn't in abundance yesterday, and while they can probably get away with another lackluster performance against UMKC Wednesday night, a pretty strong-rebounding Georgia team (they dominated Illinois on the glass) comes to town on Saturday.

The Long Ball

According to Ken Pomeroy, right now Mizzou has the 13th-best 3-point defense in the country ... and the 15th-best 3-point offense.  I'm sure we'll hit another cold streak or two along the way, but this is one potential weakness that has turned into a (for now, anyway) strength, and thank goodness for that.  Poor 3-point shooting in either of the last two games may have spelled doom.  Since the loss to Richmond, Mizzou has shot 69-for-156 from 3-point range (44.2%), making below 40% just once (against Oral Roberts, and even that was 37.5%), and while a lot of that has come against lesser defenses, a) Illinois and Vandy are far from lesser defenses, and b) even against a D2 team, that kind of prolonged success is hard to manage.

And if you're looking for a reason to believe that the good shooting will continue through most of the season (barring inevitable mini-slumps), consider this: in the span since the Richmond game, four players have taken more than 15 3-pointers, and they have all made at least 41% of them.  Three have made at least 46%.

Kim English: 21-for-45 (46.7%)
Marcus Denmon: 19-for-40 (47.5%)
Zaire Taylor: 12-for-20 (60.0%)
Mike Dixon: 7-for-17 (41.2%)

Add to this the fact that Laurence Bowers and Justin Safford have combined to go 8-for-16 for the season, and you start to realize that Mizzou's got quite a few different long-range weapons, and when you've got variety, you're less likely to undergo a team-wide slump.

(Of course, the long-range success has led to a lack of penetration, free throws, and offensive rebounds inside, meaning you kind of have to continue to make 3's at a strong clip.)

Player stats after the jump.

Player Stats

Player AdjGS* GmSc/Min Line
Kim English 20.9
0.83
25 Min, 23 Pts (8-for-14 FG, 3-for-6 3PT), 4 Reb, 2 Stl
Mike Dixon 17.8
0.71
25 Min, 12 Pts (4-for-5 FG), 4 Ast
Marcus Denmon
13.3
0.70
19 Min, 17 Pts (6-for-10 FG, 4-for-6 3PT), 3 Ast
Keith Ramsey
10.7
0.43
25 Min, 7 Pts (3-for-3 FG), 8 Reb, 3 Stl, 2 Ast
Laurence Bowers
9.3
0.37
25 Min, 8 Pts (4-for-7 FG), 5 Reb, 4 Blk, 2 Ast
J.T. Tiller
7.7
0.41
19 Min, 9 Pts (4-for-5 FG), 2 Reb, 2 Ast
Miguel Paul
5.6
0.33
17 Min, 6 Pts (2-for-3 FG), 4 Ast
Steve Moore
3.4
0.23
15 Min, 2 Pts (1-for-1 FG), 2 Reb
Justin Safford
3.1
0.38
8 MIn, 4 Pts (2-for-4 FG)
Zaire Taylor
2.2
0.10
22 Min, 6 Pts (2-for-6 FG, 2-for-5 3PT), 3 Reb, 2 Ast
John Underwood
0.0
0.00
1 foot on the court
Tyler Stone
0.0
0.00
1 foot on the court


* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds.  It takes points, assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls into account to determine an individual's "score" for a given game.  The "adjustment" in Adjusted Game Score is simply matching the total game scores to the total points scored in the game, thereby redistributing the game's points scored to those who had the biggest impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

  • I'll talk about Mike Dixon below, but here I'll mention that it's been a lovely couple of games from Miguel Paul: 31 minutes, 11 pts on 4-for-7 shooting, 5 assists, 1 turnover.  I still think his defense leaves a little to be desired, but it really is starting to look like he can make a solid contribution this year and not necessarily get lost in the shuffle simply because of Dixon's success.  Of course, if we ever get Tiller and Taylor going full-speed at the same time again, somebody's minutes are going to suffer, and it's probably going to be Paul, but even at just 8-10 minutes per game, he should still be able to make his mark.
  • Quick kudos to two seniors whose impact on the box score was minimal: J.T. Tiller carried the team for a short span in the first half when things started looking a bit out of sorts, and Keith Ramsey's super-steady play was an absolute necessity with both Justin Safford and Laurence Bowers playing relatively poorly.  They only combined for 18.4 AdjGS points and were overshadowed by a couple of younger players, but they played well, and it's a good thing they did.
  • Justin Safford looked lost yesterday, at least until his last couple of minutes.  (He also looked a couple of steps slow, so maybe his previous injuries were bothering him?)  But he played so well against Illinois that I'll give him a free pass.
  • Steve Moore: 0.12 rebounds per minute this season.  Marcus Denmon: 0.18.  Zaire Taylor: 0.12.  You've got to bring more to the table, Steve.  You just have to.  And you also have to stop buying pump fakes 15 feet away and leaving your man wide open.  Otherwise, I'm going to get a little more vocal in my call for John Underwood.

Three Keys Revisited

From yesterday's preview.

Show Up

Mizzou did show up ... on offense.  The defense left much to be desired until the five-minute mark of the first half.  Then, for the last five minutes of the half, APSU went 1-for-5 from the field with four turnovers, and Mizzou went on an 18-3 run to end the half.  A 14-4 run to start the second half gave Mizzou all the cushion they needed, and they not only eased off the accelerator, but downright slammed on the brakes, after that.  Regardless, Mizzou's offense was clicking all game, and their defense put together enough of a nice run to put the game out of reach.

Kimmeh vs Campbell

Kim English: 25 minutes, 23 points (8-for-14 FG), 4 rebounds, 1 assists, 2 steals
Anthony Campbell: 33 minutes, 15 points (7-for-12 FG), 7 rebounds, 0 assists, 0 steals, 1 block

Campbell played relatively well, but Kimmie was, to say the least, better.

Here Comes the Predator

Mike Dixon in the last two games: 53 minutes, 28 points on 10-for-18 shooting, 6-for-6 from the free throw line, 9 assists, 7 steals, 1 turnover.  Wow.  WOW.  I mean, are those not the perfect stats for a point guard in this system ... or any system?  He's shooting over 50%, he's not shooting too much (0.34 shots per minute, which is just about the peak of what you need from a point guard), and he's got a BCI of 16.0.  And he's a scrawny freshman.

As I've already said multiple times, the thought of a Dixon-Denmon backcourt in 2010-11 does two things: 1) it makes me infinitely less scared of living in a world without J.T. Tiller and Zaire Taylor in black and gold, and 2) it takes almost all the pressure off of Phil Pressey to be able to perform at a high level immediately.  Whatever he can contribute from the start of next season is great, but he's not going to be relied upon to win games when he first steps onto the court.  All he has to do is team with Miguel Paul to run tired opponents into the ground in Mizzou's second wave.

(Of course, there will be some pressure on Tony Mitchell to quickly play at an effective level, but that's another post for another time.)

Summary

I think it will continue to be the case that in-game slumps will last longer for this team than last year's -- the poor rebounding and 2-point shooting are just too noticeable to avoid that conclusion.  But with four good long-range shooters (a fifth if you include Safford ... your choice) and a backcourt that is just getting better and better (remember, Tiller and Taylor barely both been full speed this year), this team is still all sorts of dangerous.  I just did not see Dixon developing at this rate; he has been a revelation.  If Safford brings his A-game against good teams like he did against Illinois, and if we can get Bowers out of the small slump he's found his way into, then Mizzou not only still has a high ceiling ... but has a higher ceiling than I really believed they might at the beginning of the year.  With high highs and low lows, it could be a bit of a roller coaster ride through conference play, but I'm more optimistic than I was a couple of weeks ago, and that's really all one can hope for, right?

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