Study Hall: Illinois

ST. LOUIS MO - DECEMBER 22: Marcus Denmon #12 of the Missouri Tigers shoots the ball against Mike Tisdale #54 of the Illinois Fighting Illini during the Busch Braggin' Rights game at the Scottrade Center on December 22 2010 in St. Louis Missouri. The Tigers beat the Fighting Illini 75-64. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Your Trifecta: Denmon-Bowers-Dixon.  Your winners: MULuke (though technically he missed on his Superfecta guess) and vipercfk.  To those who picked Denmon-Bowers-English, you missed by 0.1 points.

Mizzou 75, Illinois 64

Mizzou
Illinois
Pace (No. of Possessions)
69.9
Points Per Minute
1.88 1.60
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.07 0.92
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.27 0.91
2-PT FG% 46.8% 42.3%
3-PT FG% 33.3% 27.8%
FT% 73.1% 41.7%
True Shooting % 53.2% 42.5%
Mizzou Illinois
Assists 18 16
Steals 7 2
Turnovers 10 13
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
2.50 1.38
Mizzou Illinois
Expected Offensive Rebounds 13 17
Offensive Rebounds 9 19
Difference -3 +2

The Call

Clearly the biggest play of the game was the intentional foul called on Mike Tisdale with 37 seconds remaining, so I'll start with it.  Two thoughts:

1) We can debate whether it should have been called or not, but it absolutely could have been called.  Two hands to the back on a layup, with no attempt at the ball, is for all intents and purposes the very definition of an intentional foul.  It wasn't flagrant -- Bowers didn't go sprawling into the second row or anything -- but it was by definition a fine call.   I'm a big "call it the same way for 40 minutes" kind of guy, so the whole "They shouldn't have called that with 40 seconds left" argument doesn't get very far with me. Obviously, between this and the fact that I'm a Missouri fan, I didn't mind the call too much.

Now ... as it happened, I didn't jump off my sofa and shout, "THAT WAS AN INTENTIONAL FOUL!!!!" before seeing the ref make the call.  For one thing, my wife was asleep in the next room, and it would have been rude of me to shout.  For another ... the push itself was light enough that I would have been fine with the foul not being called intentional.

2) For the announcers who couldn't stop talking about the call even as the rest of the game played out, let me point out that if it is a regular foul call and Bowers makes the free throw (and since he made both of the intentional foul shots, it's fair to say he probably would have completed the three-point play), Mizzou is still up 4 with 37 seconds left.  Illinois likely still comes down and misses a 3-pointer, Mizzou likely still makes the free throws, and they likely still win.  The call didn't cost Illinois the game, and I was getting pretty frustrated with the tone of the announcers over the last 37 seconds because of it.  Illinois' collapse cost Illinois the game -- the intentional foul (and the resulting technical) just made the margin of victory a lot larger.

Perseverance

At one point in the first half, I made the following observation:

[N]o Bowers, no PPressey, MPressey in foul trouble, Kimmeh shooting fadeaways, Safford falling down, and Dixon trying too hard.

Really, that was being kind.  There was no mention of the game moving a little too fast for Ricky Kreklow, Ricardo Ratliffe getting abused on the glass, and Steve Moore being a non-factor.  Mizzou was out of sorts, and it felt like they were either about to get blown out, or they already were getting blown out.  Instead, they persevered, and the game was somehow tied at halftime.  Eight minutes into the second half, it was still tied even though it felt like Mizzou had won about four minutes in the entire game.  They were playing Illinois' game and having to scrap for every basket ... and then the last 12 minutes were played at Mizzou's pace.  Up and down, up and down ... the offenses began to open up, the game began to flow, and for ten minutes, Illinois held up.  The last two?  All Mizzou.

When the dust settled, Mizzou had severely outshot Illinois, especially from the line (it feels really good to type that) and had almost doubled the Illini up in terms of BCI, and they won by a comfortable margin.  But there was nothing comfortable about this one.

Well-Seasoned

In the last 23 days, Mizzou has a) played in one of the season's most exciting games thus far, a neutral court bloodbath against Georgetown in a great environment, b) avoided a road collapse and beaten Oregon in a hostile environment despite no legs, c) made huge plays down the stretch to beat Vanderbilt, a sure tourney team, at home, and d) beaten another likely tourney team, Illinois, in a big-time neutral court environment.  Who knows how the Big 12 season will play out, but come March, this will be Mike Anderson's most seasoned, experienced team.  Obviously the juniors -- Marcus Denmon, Laurence Bowers, Kim English -- have played roles in plenty of big March games already, but the experience level, combined with the big games they have played in November and December, will make them a very, very tough out in the NCAA Tournament.

3-Point Defense: Coming Around

Since the perimeter debacles against La Salle, UA-Pine Bluff, Georgetown and Oregon, who combined to go 37-for-81 (46%) from 3-point range, Mizzou's defense has improved significantly.  In the last five games, Mizzou opponents have gone just 29-for-99 (29%) from long range, a very impressive achievement considering all but one opponent in this span has ranked in the Top 100 in Off. 3PT%.  Mizzou was ferocious in their rotations yesterday, and obviously it had a very positive impact on the game itself.  Keep this up, and what we feared was a significant weakness might end up a strength.

Hey, Hubert Davis...

...at this point, just continue calling him Ricardo Ratcliffe.  You've already put together a streak nearly as impressive as that of the UConn women; keep this up over the course of a few more games this year, and you'll blow Auriemma's crew out of the water.

How he can still be mispronouncing Ricardo's name, even as the play-by-play guy repeatedly says it correctly, I have no idea.  But it should make for one hell of a drinking game in the near future.

Mizzou Player Stats

(Definitions at the bottom of the post.)

Player
AdjGS GmSc/Min Line
Marcus Denmon 16.5 0.47 35 Min, 15 Pts (4-11 FG, 1-4 3PT, 6-6 FT), 3 Ast, 3 Stl, 2 Reb
Laurence Bowers 15.8 0.57 28 Min, 13 Pts (5-9 FG, 3-5 FT), 9 Reb (2 Off), 3 Blk, 2 Ast
Mike Dixon 11.1 0.36 31 Min, 10 Pts (2-6 FG, 1-2 3PT, 5-6 FT), 6 Ast, 4 Reb, 3 TO
Kim English 11.0 0.31 36 Min, 8 Pts (3-8 FG, 2-4 3PT), 6 Reb, 5 Ast, 3 Stl, 2 TO
Justin Safford 8.2 0.51 16 Min, 11 Pts (5-7 FG, 1-3 FT), 3 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 TO
Ricardo Ratliffe 7.1 0.26 27 Min, 12 Pts (5-11 FG, 2-4 FT), 5 Reb
Steve Moore 2.1 0.21 10 Min, 2 Pts (1-1 FG)
Matt Pressey 1.7 0.17 10 Min, 4 Pts (1-5 FG, 2-2 FT), 3 Reb
Jarrett Sutton 0.0 0.00 About 1.3 seconds of action
Ricky Kreklow -1.3 -0.19 7 Min

What can you really say about Marcus Denmon at this point?  He leads Mizzou in scoring despite being off from long-range, he lets the game come to him (he didn't score until the final minute of the first half, and he barely took a shot before then either), and as with the Vanderbilt game, he makes a huge defensive play in the final stretch of the game.  At this point, it is cliche to call him the heart and soul of this team, but ... he's the heart and soul of this team.

As for the others...

  • Some major minutes by both English and Denmon last night.  And I don't know what kind of player Kim English is going to be in the future, but he has certainly improved this year in terms of non-points contribution to the box score.  He took only eight shots in 36 minutes but registered another six rebounds, five assists and three steals.  He has cut his turnover rate down a decent amount as well.  I would love to have this version of Kimmeh, only with a bit more scoring efficiency.
  • Great second-half minutes by Safford.  He is the exact definition of a streak scorer; he either disappears or barrels his way through quite a few ineffective minutes, but when the team needs offense, he steps up.  He scored nine points in a row for Missouri in the middle of the second half (Round 8, if you're scoring at home), while Illinois' offense was starting to get hot.  The Illini could have run away with the game in that span if Safford hadn't done what he did.  Matt Pressey put in some good minutes at this point as well.
  • Mike Dixon in the first half: 16 minutes, 4 points (0-for-3 FG), 3 assists, 2 turnovers.
    Mike Dixon in the second half: 15 minutes, 6 points (2-for-3 FG), 3 assists, 1 turnover.

    Not as huge an improvement as it felt he made in the second half, but once again, Dixon was tough as nails down the stretch.  Denmon, Dixon and English are making for a very confident backcourt during crunch time.
  • Just four defensive rebounds in 27 minutes for Ricardo Ratliffe.  With every progressing game, he better figures out how to make contributions in Mike Anderson's system, but his rebounding has slipped recently, and he needs to get back on track in that regard.
Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
Poss.
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %T/O
Marcus Denmon 21% 41% 2.8 51% 32% 14% 3%
Laurence Bowers 22% 46% 2.6 45% 35% 16% 4%
Mike Dixon 19% 40% 4.5 72% 12% 10% 6%
Kim English 14% 37% 3.1 75% 20% 0% 5%
Justin Safford 32% 49% 4.1 51% 30% 10% 9%
Ricardo Ratliffe 25% 35% 1.6 0% 72% 21% 7%
Steve Moore 5% 100% 0.3 0% 100% 0% 0%
Matt Pressey 29% 27% 1.9 0% 76% 24% 0%
Jarrett Sutton N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Ricky Kreklow 7% 0% 0.4 0% 100% 0% 0%
  • As we might have expected, Kim English became the de facto backup distributor in Phil Pressey's absence.  Overall, he was not very assertive offensively, but there is no questioning that he had a very positive impact on this game.
  • Also having a positive impact: the fact that nobody -- not even Safford or Kreklow -- went over the 10% mark in turnovers.

Three Keys Revisited

From Tuesday's Preview.

The Middle Rounds

Yeah, I whiffed on this one.  Here's what would constitute the "scorecard" from last night:

Round 1: 10-10
Round 2: 10-9 UI
Round 3: 10-9 UI
Round 4: 10-10
Round 5: 10-8 MU
Round 6: 10-10
Round 7: 10-10
Round 8: 10-10
Round 9: 10-9 UI
Round 10: Mizzou KO

The "middle rounds," as they were, went 2-0-2 for Illinois.  It was the late rounds, the fifth and tenth (i.e. the last four minutes of each half), where Mizzou made almost all of their progress.  Combined, they outscored the Illini 28-9 in the eight minutes that constituted the last four of each half, and in a game they won by 11, um, that's rather significant.

The Glass

Mizzou got obliterated on the glass in the first half, allowing a staggering 14 offensive rebounds while grabbing just five themselves.  Mike Tisdale had seven offensive rebounds in 18 first-half minutes.  In the second half, however, Mizzou fought the Illini to a stalemate on the glass, which allowed them to win the game in other ways.  Illinois grabbed only two offensive rebounds in the game's final ten minutes.

Denmon (or English) vs McCamey

Demetri McCamey: 39 minutes, 14 points (6-14 FG, 2-6 3PT), 6 assists, 4 turnovers, 2 blocks
Marcus Denmon: 35 minutes, 15 points (4-11 FG, 1-4 3PT), 3 assists, 3 steals, 1 turnover

I said that either Denmon or English needed to fight McCamey to a draw while the rest of Mizzou's team beat the rest of Illinois' team.  Denmon basically did that, plus he was the one making the plays down the stretch.  Consequently, Mizzou won by 11.

Summary

This was, quite simply, a great, steely-eyed win for the Tigers.  They played Illinois' game for 30 minutes, scrapping and clawing to stay above water, and when it was time to make plays in the game's final two minutes, Mizzou made them.  You just knew that Denmon's 18-footer with 2:24 left was going in.  You just knew that Dixon's runner with 1:25 left was going in.  The semi-fluky strip-and-3-pointer sequence was the only thing Illinois did right in the last two minutes.  Mizzou lined up the knockout blow and landed it clean.  It was wonderful to see, and it was a lovely Merry Christmas to Mizzou fans.  Does two in a row count as a streak?  Because if so, Mizzou has countered the long Braggin' Rights losing streak of the '00s with one of their own.  And it feels pretty good.

 

---

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.

Usage%: This "estimates the % of team possessions a player consumes while on the floor" (via).  The usage of those possessions is determined via a formula using field goal and free throw attempts, offensive rebounds, assists and turnovers.  The higher the number, the more prevalent a player is (good or bad) in a team's offensive outcome.  As you would expect, someone like Kim English has a high Usage%, while Steve Moore has an extremely low one.

Floor%: Via Basketball-Reference.com: Floor % answers the question, "when Player X uses a possession, what is the probability that his team scores at least 1 point?".  The higher the Floor%, the more frequently the team probably scores when the given player is involved.

Touches/Possession: Using field goal attempts, free throw attempts, assists and turnovers, Touches attempt to estimate "the number of times a player touched the ball in an attacking position on the floor."  Take the estimated touches and divide it by the estimated number of possessions for which a player was on the court, and you get a rough idea of how many times a player touched the ball in a given possession.  For point guards, you'll see the number in the 3-4 range.  For shooting guards and wings, 2-3.  For Steve Moore, 1.30.  You get the idea.

Anyway, using the Touches figure, we can estimate the percentage of time a player "in an attacking position" passes, shoots, turns the ball over, or gets fouled.

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