Study Hall: Mizzou vs K-State -- 1-0, baby

Two hours and twenty minutes of frustration, anxiety and general lack of game flow (thanks to the whistles), followed by ten minutes of pure excitement and exhilaration.  I'll take it.  Mizzou's win over K-State was everything good and bad about Big 12 basketball, wrapped up into one pretty, little two-and-a-half hour package.

Everything That's Good About Big 12 Basketball

The intensity was palpable.  It felt like a late-February game in early-January, and two teams with a ton of character and athleticism threw their bodies around all afternoon (and I mean all afternoon).  It was intense even through all the whistles, and depending on who you believe, it either evened up a century-old series at 115-115, or it gave Mizzou a 116-114 lead (sheesh, does Mizzou agree with anybody about any series?).  These two teams have been duking it out forever, and this battle carried some weight from start to finish.

Everything That's Bad About Big 12 Basketball

Let's see ... 56 fouls, 73 free throws, 2.5 hours long.  It was an absolute officiating disaster.  Look, I know you can't have teams tackling each other out there, and as I mentioned in my preview, with two teams that toe the line as much as possible to see what they can get away with in terms of physical play, you're obviously going to have more fouls than a game with two teams playing zone defense and shooting a ton of 3's.  I get it.  But this was beyond ridiculous.  And worse, it could hurt both of these teams later on.  Remember in the late-1990s, when Kansas was mired in a series of upset losses in the NCAA tournament?  Every year, they would get used to Big 12 games with insane amounts of whistles, and they would get to the tourney and face a physical team, and when they expected whistles to come, there were no whistles.  In the postseason, you have to go out and win games, and there aren't fouls called every 43 seconds (seriously, there was a foul called every FORTY-THREE SECONDS).  And this type of crap does nothing but hurt the postseason iterations of these two teams.

It goes without saying that if I know a referee's name, it's probably because I think he's absolutely terrible.  I know Tom O'Neill's name, for instance.  And Terry Davis', for that matter.  They were both calling today's game, and I was clearly unimpressed by either one.  But it was the third ref -- one mister Andrew Walton, whose 43.3 fouls per game (in games with which he is associated) would rank first among all refs if he had enough games to qualify -- who seemed the biggest culprit.  Go back to Conference USA, Mr. Walton.  I hope you never call another Mizzou game.  Or, since I like quite a few KSU fans at this point, another KSU game either.  And I hope we don't play a Big Ten or Big East team in the NCAA tourney if we end up getting this kind of officiating the rest of the season.

Anyway, this game had too positive a result to bitch about that any longer, so let's get to the numbers.

Mizzou 74, Kansas State 68

Mizzou
KSU
Points Per Minute
1.85 1.70
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.04 0.95
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.61 1.36
2-PT FG% 46.7% 48.4%
3-PT FG% 37.5% 31.6%
FT% 65.1% 66.7%
True Shooting % 57.0% 53.8%
Mizzou KSU
Assists 9 6
Steals 11 9
Turnovers 20 21
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.00 0.71
Mizzou KSU
Expected Offensive Rebounds 12 12
Offensive Rebounds 14 12
Difference +2 0

Beating them at their own game.

K-State is a team that wins games by killing you in two areas -- getting to the line a ton and grabbing an insane amount of offensive rebounds.  When all was said and done, Mizzou had shot 43 free throws to K-State's 30, and they had outrebounded the Wildcats, both in terms of overall rebounds (+5) and expected rebounds (+2).  Amid the whistles, this was a wonderful performance against a big, super-physical team, and while I came away from the game believing that K-State truly is a strong, athletic, dangerous team (I hadn't seen them all season, so I couldn't verify with my own eyes), Mizzou was better at the things that make K-State good.

That's a good thing, as KSU almost beat Mizzou at Mizzou's game, forcing 20 turnovers and limiting Mizzou to a mediocre-at-best 1.00 BCI.

 

Player Stats

Player AdjGS* GmSc/Min Line
Zaire Taylor 19.1 0.56 34 Min, 14 Pts (2-for-5 FG, 9-for-10 FT), 3 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl
Laurence Bowers 18.9 0.79 24 Min, 13 Pts (3-for-3 FG, 7-for-10 FT), 8 Reb (6 Off), 2 Blk, 3 TO, 4 PF
Marcus Denmon 14.9 0.62 24 Min, 14 Pts (5-for-10 FG, 3-for-6 3PT), 2 Stl
Keith Ramsey 10.3 0.29 36 Min, 9 Pts (3-for-4 FG, 3-for-4 FT), 5 Reb, 2 Stl, 2 Blk, 5 TO
Justin Safford 5.1 0.30 17 Min, 8 Pts (3-for-8 FG, 1-for-4 FT), 2 Ast, 2 Stl
Steve Moore 0.7 0.24 3 Min, 1 Pt (0-for-1 FG), 2 Reb
Mike Dixon 0.6 0.10 6 Min, 2 Pts, 4 PF
Kim English 0.3 0.01 24 Min, 8 Pts (3-for-11 FG, 1-for-5 3PT), 4 Reb (2 Off), 2 Stl, 4 TO, 4 PF
Miguel Paul 0.0 0.00 3 Min, 0 Pts
J.T. Tiller -0.6 -0.02 29 Min, 5 Pts (1-for-4, 3-for-7 FT), 4 Reb, 2 Ast, 5 TO


* 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.

  • Well hello there, Mr. Coffee.  Good to know you still have it.  With almost everybody on both teams in serious foul trouble, Zaire Taylor stayed on the court for 34 minutes (an insane total for this system, though the non-stop whistles obviously helped him catch his breath), played solid defense, was complete money from the free throw line, and ... of course ... nailed the go-ahead 3-pointer with 33 seconds left.  Here's my official reaction to Taylor's long 3-pointer: "NO NO, THAT'S A STUPID SH ... oh wait, it's Zaire Taylor ... there's no way that's not going in!!!"  Bang.
  • Be very careful, Marcus Denmon and Laurence Bowers.  One game into the conference season, you have set the bar VERY high.  A combined 8-for-13 shooting, 8-for-12 from the FT line (3-for-4 down the stretch), 9 rebounds (6 offensive), 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and RIDICULOUSLY clutch play in the last five minutes.  Denmon's two 3's tied the game, and his two steals gave Mizzou the lead, then Bowers' gutty rebound of J.T. Tiller's missed free throw, two clutch free throws, and party-starting dunk (seriously, considering the circumstances, that has to be considered the best dunk of his career ... and that's saying something pretty lofty) iced the win.  They were unbelievable down the stretch, and if they do that too much, we'll come to expect it.
  • Kudos also to Keith Ramsey.  It's not that he did anything particularly amazing today; he was typical Keith Ramsey -- few shots, good free throw shooting, sound defense, great press instigation, absolutely horrific ball-handling -- but along with Mr. Coffee, Ramsey was on the field a vast majority of the game while everybody else was cycling in and out due to foul trouble, and the consistency he brings to the table (even with the turnovers) is a great thing for this team.
  • Welcome to the Big 12, Mike Dixon, where when you least expect it, you can get called for four fouls in six minutes.
  • J.T. Tiller was absolutely dreadful offensively today, but he is still an unbelievable defensive pace setter.  On an otherwise harmless inbounds play in the second half, the guard receiving the ball (don't remember who) momentarily juggled the pass, and Tiller pounced.  He leaped for the ball, got two hands on it, and in the proceeding scuffle, the ball went out of bounds off of the KSU guard.  Mizzou takes advantage of every little lapse of focus, and even when he's struggling on offense, Tiller's presence makes sure Mizzou is in the right mindset at all times.

Three Keys Revisited

From yesterday's preview.

The Zebras

Addressed above, this was absolutely the biggest factor in the game, and it really was unfortunate.  But it is what it is, and since Mizzou ended up winning the game (and shooting more FTs), I guess they got what they needed.

Who Gets Hot?

Kim English & Marcus Denmon: 4-for-11 from 3-point range
Jacob Pullen & Denis Clemente: 5-for-18 from 3-point range

So who got hot?  Nobody.  But Marcus Denmon was NAILS down the stretch, making two 3-pointers with five minutes left to even up what was a 6-point K-State lead, then getting back-to-back steals and nailing a tough bank shot with two minutes left.  After Denmon missed a free throw, Pullen nailed a 3 to tie the game with 0:57 left.  English (1-for-5) and Clemente (2-for-9) were relatively worthless, but Denmon gave Mizzou the edge in this H.O.R.S.E. game.

R-E-B-O-U-N-D

What can I say?  The last three games against 'real' opponents (Illinois, Georgia, K-State), Mizzou has, at worst, broken even on the boards.  They were momentarily dominated on the glass by Savannah State earlier this week, but if rebounding is as much about focus as size/skill, then their focus just wasn't where it needed to be against SSU.  When they've needed the intensity and focus against real teams, they've gotten it, and this development is EXTREMELY encouraging.  If they're playing better defense than their opponents, shooting better from long-range, AND holding their own on the boards, then suddenly they are an even tougher out, at home or away from home.

(Of course, that "away from home" part will undergo a challenge this week, as Mizzou travels to Lubbock and Norman for two winnable-but-quite-losable games.  We'll see what we're saying about rebounding and road play a week from now.)

Mizzou vs. Real Opponents

Just a quick update on the eight games against "real" opponents Mizzou has played.

Mizzou
Opp.
Points Per Minute
1.91 1.67
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.10 0.96
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.28 1.24
2-PT FG% 46.6% 47.3%
3-PT FG% 39.0% 29.4%
FT% 72.3% 74.0%
True Shooting % 54.9% 52.3%
Mizzou Opp.
Assists/Gm 15.8 10.1
Steals/Gm 10.6 6.8
Turnovers/Gm 13.5 20.6
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.95 0.82
Mizzou Opp.
Expected Offensive Rebounds 103 96
Offensive Rebounds 102 111
Difference -1 +15

Rebound figures still look iffy, but they're absolutely improving.

Player AdjGS/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Laurence Bowers 12.4 0.62 19.9 MPG, 10.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 1.3 TOPG
Zaire Taylor 10.8 0.40 26.9 MPG, 8.0 PPG, 3.1 APG, 2.8 RPG, 2.4 SPG, 1.1 TOPG
Keith Ramsey 9.3 0.32 28.8 MPG, 5.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 1.5 BPG, 1.1 APG, 2.0 TOPG
J.T. Tiller 9.2 0.36 25.6 MPG, 10.5 PPG, 3.9 APG, 2.6 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 2.5 TOPG
Marcus Denmon 9.1 0.50 18.4 MPG, 10.6 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.3 TOPG
Kim English 8.9 0.36 24.9 MPG, 13.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 2.0 TOPG
Mike Dixon 6.1 0.40 15.4 MPG, 7.5 PPG, 1.9 APG
Justin Safford 5.6 0.26 21.3 MPG, 7.8 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.4 TOPG
Tyler Stone 2.6 0.97 8 minutes
Miguel Paul 1.9 0.19 10.1 MPG, 1.6 PPG, 1.9 APG
John Underwood 0.8 0.38 6 minutes
Jarrett Sutton 0.8 0.41 4 minutes
Steve Moore 0.1 0.02 7.9 MPG, 0.4 PPG, 1.0 RPG

 

  • Kim English is the face of this team, and with his 15+ PPG, that will continue to be the case.  But this team will go as far as Laurence Bowers and Zaire Taylor will take them, and that's looking like a lot further than it was a month ago.

Summary

All's well that ends well, right?  After all the annoyance and frustration about the whistles and the general flow of the game, Mizzou made almost every play down the stretch, and because of that, all the annoying parts are forgotten and forgiven.  This was an absolutely exhilarating finish, Taylor, Bowers, and Denmon (and, really, everybody else at one point or another) came through in the clutch, and Mizzou is now 1-0 in conference play.  Which, I should point out, is better than they started last year.  Bring on Tech.

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