UCLA 97, Mizzou 94: Study Hall

Stephen Dunn

Your Trifecta: Pressey-Bowers-Bell. Or Pressey-Bell-Bowers. Bell and Bowers tied for second. Your winner: nobody!

Really, this entire game played out in a single possession. With 5:24, Laurence Bowers grabbed a defensive rebound, and Mizzou took over the ball, up nine points, 86-77. Like the first part of the game, the first part of the possession was rather untidy, with UCLA shutting off penetration and tipping a pass from Jabari Brown to Earnest Ross. But Mizzou rallied; Ross saved the ball and threaded a pass between defenders back to Brown, who spun around and suddenly had a great, dead-center look from 3-point range. It hit two parts of the rim but rolled out. Bowers grabbed the board, however, and flipped a putback toward the rim. It is a shot he has made many, many times in his career, but it rolled out, too. After another rebound, Frank Haith called timeout. After the reset, Phil Pressey flipped a bullet pass to Bowers, but unlike so many others on Friday night, this one was tipped out of bounds.

And then the possession, like Missouri at the end of regulation, fell apart. An inbounds pass to Keion Bell was tipped; Bell recovered the ball after a scramble and found Bowers, who passed to Brown. Brown lost the handle on the ball, recovered just barely, and the possession finally ended with Pressey airballing a long 3-pointer (with a little bit of contact) as the shot clock expired. Mizzou had the dagger in its hand, got a little unlucky, then crumbled.

UCLA 97, Mizzou 94 (OT)

Mizzou
UCLA
Pace (No. of Possessions) 80.0
Points Per Possession (PPP) 1.17 1.21
Points Per Shot (PPS) 1.18 1.23
2-PT FG% 50.0% 55.4%
3-PT FG% 42.9% 28.6%
FT% 60.0% 81.3%
True Shooting % 55.7% 56.4%
Mizzou UCLA
Assists 21 21
Steals 5 9
Turnovers 17 6
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.53 5.00
Mizzou UCLA
Expected Offensive Rebounds 16 15
Offensive Rebounds 20 12
Difference +4 -3

This was a really, really fun game.

It stinks that Missouri lost. Obviously. But as long as this version of UCLA makes more appearances this season, it is a loss that will not hurt the Tigers very much at all come March. Good teams lose (mostly) well-played games to other good teams on the road. But this was a relatively up-tempo (at times) game with lots of chess moves, most of which were reasonably effective. UCLA stretched Alex Oriakhi to the perimeter by knocking down a better-than-normal number of jumpers with the Wear twins (combined: 18-for-27, much on long jumpers), so Mizzou countered with a heavy dose of Earnest Ross, which negated the Wears for a couple of periods. Mizzou played beautifully on the offensive glass, so UCLA made the lingering Tigers pay with transition points. UCLA went big to offset Mizzou's size advantage, and Mizzou started making 3-pointers. Great game. Terrible ending, but great game. And I have no less confidence in Mizzou moving forward despite this loss, which is nice.

Though the overall chemistry should continue to grow a bit, I think we have a pretty good read on Mizzou's strengths and weaknesses at this point.

Mizzou has one of the best point guards in the country, and with Jabari Brown on board, the Tigers might -- might -- actually have enough outside shooters to make defenses pay for collapsing on Phil Pressey in the lane. At least, as long as long as somebody besides Brown is in rhythm. On Friday, Brown and Earnest Ross made seven of 12 3-pointers. Hell, Negus Webster-Chan and Stefan Jankovic also made two of five. This was probably as unsustainable as the Wear twins making every jumper, but they were open, good shots, mostly within the flow of the offense, and if they fall regularly, Mizzou's halfcourt offense is nearly unstoppable.

Meanwhile, Mizzou has clinched a spot at or near the top of the "best rebounding teams in college basketball" list. The Tigers are at least plus-6 in expected rebounds in almost every game, and that is so significant because of the weaknesses at hand.

First, as I said in Friday's preview, Mizzou's defense is more potential than production so far. It looks great for stretches, falls victim to transition points, and cleans up the boards. But it has to clean up the boards because it forces almost no turnovers whatsoever. UCLA had just six turnovers in 45 minutes, two of which came in back-to-back possessions as Mizzou was briefly stretching its second-half lead to nine points. Opponents will get a shot on nearly every one of their possessions, so Mizzou has no choice but to rebound the misses. The main problem on Friday was that there weren't enough misses. UCLA shot 40-for-79, the Wear twins were a little too good from the perimeter, and the Bruins got quite a few rather easy transition points.

And, of course, there is only one point guard on the roster. Jabari Brown might account for Mike Dixon in the shooting department (or at least come close), but Phil Pressey has to get some rest at times. Once he hit about his 36th minute, he lost his form. He regained it to a degree, but while Mizzou can probably get away with playing him about 35 minutes per game at a moderate pace, any more than that is obviously going to be pushing it.

As others have mentioned, it's pretty clear that Haith is grooming NWC for the backup role, but in December of his freshman season, he isn't there yet. And it will cost Mizzou a few more times along the way. Jabari Brown is in the process of plugging a Mike Dixon-shaped hole on the perimeter, but there is still a Mike Dixon-shaped hole on the point guard depth chart.

Mizzou Player Stats

(Definitions at the bottom of the post.)

Player
AdjGS GmSc/Min Line
Phil Pressey 21.8 0.50 44 Min, 19 Pts (8-22 FG, 3-8 3PT), 19 Ast, 3 Reb, 2 Stl, 5 TO
Keion Bell 18.2 0.59 31 Min, 17 Pts (8-13 FG, 0-1 3PT, 1-2 FT), 6 Reb (4 Off)
Laurence Bowers 18.2 0.52 35 Min, 17 Pts (8-14 FG, 0-2 3PT), 9 Reb (5 Off), 2 Blk, 2 TO
Earnest Ross 15.8 0.51 31 Min, 16 Pts (5-8 FG, 3-4 3PT, 3-4 FT), 7 Reb, 3 TO
Jabari Brown 10.2 0.26 39 Min, 14 Pts (5-13 FG, 4-8 3PT), 7 Reb (2 Off)
Alex Oriakhi 3.4 0.18 19 Min, 5 Pts (2-3 FG, 1-3 FT), 7 Reb (3 Off), 2 Blk, 4 TO
Stefan Jankovic 2.4 0.60 4 Min, 3 Pts (1-2 3PT)
Ryan Rosburg 0.0 0.00 2 Min
Negus Webster-Chan -1.0 -0.05 20 Min, 3 Pts (1-5 FG, 1-3 3PT), 3 Reb, 2 TO
Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
Poss.
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %T/O
Pressey 27% 44% 8.8 81% 16% 0% 4%
Bell 20% 54% 1.5 0% 80% 20% 0%
Bowers 21% 45% 1.4 0% 80% 9% 11%
Ross 18% 44% 2.1 25% 34% 27% 13%
Brown 16% 31% 1.0 0% 93% 0% 7%
Oriakhi 19% 29% 2.6 33% 17% 27% 23%
Jankovic 22% 44% 1.4 0% 100% 0% 0%
NWC 16% 12% 1.0 0% 71% 0% 29%
  • Seriously, 19 assists is absurd. Totally absurd. Yes, Phil Pressey lost the plot late. He's forgiven.
  • As dcrockett17 mentioned, it truly is a damned shame that Keion Bell missed that layup with about two minutes left in overtime, as it clouded what was his best performance of the season. He went 8-for-13 (8-for-12 without that layup) and gave Mizzou a tremendous energy boost when the Tigers fell behind in the first half. UCLA went up, 35-25, with 7:12 left, but two tip-ins and a layup kept Mizzou afloat, and then Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross surged to give Mizzou the lead.
  • Earnest Ross is so ... damn ... streaky from long range. But his shot is so pretty.
  • Go straight up, Stefan! Jankovic got two clean looks from long range, and he made the one in which he didn't fade away for no real reason.

Three Keys Revisited

From Friday's preview.

Mizzou on the offensive glass

Offensive rebounding is one of Missouri's biggest strength (it might be it's single biggest strength), while defensive rebounding has been a decent-sized strength for UCLA. Can the Bruins keep Mizzou off of the glass and force the Tigers to make their jumpers?

Expected Mizzou offensive rebounds: 16
Mizzou offensive rebounds: 20.

As mentioned above, Mizzou dominated the glass once again, and UCLA made good use of its speed in transition to make Mizzou pay for its lingering around the basket. The game was played only slightly faster than the normal Mizzou game (71 possessions per 40 minutes, and Mizzou is typically in the 66-68 range), but in bursts, UCLA made good. Really nice tit-for-tat battle here.

Flip vs. Drew

You like drive-and-dish point guards? This game is for you. Phil Pressey is quite easily the better scorer of the two players (if you're looking for "Oh no, this might not be our night" signs, "Larry Drew for 3 ... splash!" might be atop the list), but that won't matter if Drew can consistently beat him into the lane. Get the ball out of his hands, and you can clog up this UCLA offense pretty well. But look at Drew's assist numbers again. It's pretty damned difficult to get the ball out of his hands.

Phil Pressey: 44 minutes, 19 points on 22 FG attempts, 19 assists, five turnovers, two steals (4.2 BCI).
Larry Drew II: 40 minutes, eight points on seven FG attempts, 10 assists, three turnovers, two steals (4.0 BCI).

Similar BCI, similar points per shot ... but Flip was asked to do far, far more than Drew in the end. That almost won Mizzou the game, and it eventually lost them the game.

Conditioning

It's the Christmas season, games aren't frequent, both offenses struggle to draw fouls, and both defenses avoid fouling for the most part. We could see long strings of play with no interruption. Mizzou just lost a key bench piece (Criswell), and UCLA really only plays about eight guys (7.5, really, since Tony Parker doesn't get a lot of playing time ... something about which he is not particularly pleased). Who wears down, and who is still cruising in fourth or fifth gear when the game hits about the eight-minute mark of the second half? Mizzou absorbed a ton of blows from Illinois, then calmly put the game away. Can the Tigers do it again two time zones to the left?

Let's just look at this as the late rounds of a fight. Round eight starts with about 12 minutes left in regulation.

Round 8: 10-9 Mizzou. UCLA took a 69-63 lead with 12:50 left, but the Tigers immediately struck back with 3-pointers from Pressey, Brown and Ross. At the 12-minute timeout (with 10:06 left), it was 74-74. At the eight-minute timeout (with 7:39 left), it was 79-77 Mizzou after another Pressey 3.

Round 9: 10-10. This was basically an epic, double-knockdown round. Mizzou floored UCLA with a quick burst, extending a 79-77 lead to 86-77 in about 90 seconds, but after the 75-second, scoreless possession I referenced at the top of this post, UCLA scored seven points in 45 seconds to take it right back to 86-84 at the TV timeout.

Round 10: 10-9 UCLA. Mizzou stayed afloat with good defense, but the Tigers' legs were gone on offense, and UCLA was allowed to tie the game with 11 seconds left.

(By the way, I'm very, very torn about the intentional foul no-call with four seconds left. For one thing, Phil Pressey flopped majorly and almost hurt himself in the process. But Jordan Adams also didn't even try to go after the ball. He grabbed Flip around the midsection, and that very, very easily could have been a low-grade Flagrant. If I'm a UCLA fan, I say it was obviously not a Flagrant. As a Mizzou fan, I lean toward saying it was. But this wasn't an extreme screw-job.)

Round 11: 10-9 UCLA. Keion Bell missed a layup, Shabazz Muhammad made a 3-pointer after a possession of really nice defense (and nicer ball-movement), Earnest Ross missed a free throw, Travis Wear made a baby-hook with 12 seconds left, and that was it.

If we start this game again with about 12 minutes left, either team might pull away to win by 8-12 points. Both almost did at one point. Instead we got a major what-if ending at the end of a classic. Technically UCLA won the conditioning battle here, but only after almost completely losing it.

Summary

Again, I can't make myself feel too bad about this loss. It was a fun, mostly well-played game in front of a loud crowd and a basketball legend*. If it's played on Norm Stewart Court, Mizzou probably wins. If it's on a neutral court, Mizzou quite possibly wins. If they played in Westwood again on Saturday, Mizzou might win. But UCLA won on Friday night. And now we move on with our lives.

* I know this goes against the sentiment of many here, but man, did I love listening to Bill Walton. Here's what I ask for from a color commentator: joy and general accuracy. And if you have an obvious bias (like Bill Walton calling a game at Pauley Pavilion, where he won many, many, many games), don't try to hide it. That's pretty much the code I try to live by at SB Nation, and it's what I felt in every minute of listening to Walton. He's an enormous UCLA homer for very obvious reasons, but he adores basketball, and he adores talking about basketball, and he was, I thought, totally fair to Missouri. He even dropped a Shiloh Bar & Grill reference in the second half. Loved it, Bill. Please come to Mizzou Arena next season.

As for the anti-stats comment he made ... I loved it. I don't demand that you like stats; I only demand that you don't hate stat-heads. What made Joe Morgan so annoying when he was on ESPN was that he openly loathed anything stat-related, even though stats only backed up all the ways that he was a great second baseman. Walton's anti-stat comments was hippie-ish and Walton-esque: "Hey, man, don't worry about the numbers, man, just watch the gaaaame." Loved it.

---

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.

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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