Mizzou 66, Bucknell 64: Study Hall

USA TODAY Sports

Phil Pressey took what he was given, Mizzou overcame a dreadful game from its "shooters," and eventually Mike Muscala wore out. 11-2, baby.

Your (rather boring) Trifecta: Pressey-Bowers-Oriakhi. Your winner: Gaknar, leeaustex, and Stopspe. Because if we don't have winners with THIS Trifecta, we'll never have any winners.

Mizzou 66, Bucknell 64

Mizzou
Bucknell
Pace (No. of Possessions) 63.6
Points Per Possession (PPP) 1.04 1.01
Points Per Shot (PPS) 1.05 1.03
2-PT FG% 44.0% 41.3%
3-PT FG% 38.5% 43.8%
FT% 58.3% 45.5%
True Shooting % 48.3% 47.9%
Mizzou Bucknell
Assists 8 14
Steals 5 2
Turnovers 8 12
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.63 1.33
Mizzou Bucknell
Expected Offensive Rebounds 14 14
Offensive Rebounds 13 14
Difference -1 +0

Defense: Still A Work In Progress

Mizzou is too big, strong and athletic for mid-major opponents. Of the lesser teams on Mizzou's schedule, only SE Missouri State managed 1.00 points per possession (and SEMO averaged exactly 1.00 points per possession). But of the "real" opponents Mizzou has faced thus far (Stanford, Louisville, VCU, Illinois, UCLA, Bucknell), the Tigers held only Stanford (0.98) under that mark. Ken Pomeroy's stats suggested that Bucknell is a strong, sound team, pretty good on both sides of the court, so the fact that this was a competitive game is nothing to be concerned about. But the Bison did manage to average 1.01 points per possession, which is higher than I hoped to see, especially considering Mizzou's own lack of shooting prowess on the other end.

Yeesh

Phil Pressey, Alex Oriakhi and Laurence Bowers combined shoot 22-for-42 (52.3%); Pressey even made three of six 3-pointers. That's a good thing. Less good: the rest of the team shot 5-for-21, 2-for-7 on 3-pointers. Keion Bell and Stefan Jankovic were 3-for-3 ... and Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross were a ghastly 2-for-18. It could have been worse, of course: Ross made a rather tough jumper with 1:55 left, and he made two free throws with three seconds left (after making just one of four to that point); he showed up at the end, which ended up mattering a lot. But there's a reason why Mizzou is so reliant on rebounding right now: both its offense and defense are a little flaky. Hey, speaking of rebounding...

Bucknell Beat Mizzou On The Glass

In terms of both actual and expected rebounding, Bucknell outdid Missouri on the boards. The Bison are a good rebounding team, but Mizzou is supposed to be a great rebounding team.

But Mizzou Won

Let's put it this way: Bucknell is currently ranked 37th in Pomeroy's rankings. Mizzou will play only five games versus teams ranked better than that in SEC play: at No. 29 Ole Miss on January 12, at No. 2 Florida on January 19, Ole Miss at home on February 9, Florida at home on February 19, and at Kentucky on February 23. Mizzou did win this one, and in non-conference play, Mizzou went 3-2 versus teams ranked 37th or better (and 8-0 versus worse teams). This game proved that the Tigers are still a work in progress, but it also proved that they should be just fine in the SEC. Next Saturday's game against Ole Miss (which, like Bucknell, has been better on paper than in reality to date) will tell us a lot.

Mizzou Player Stats

(Definitions at the bottom of the post.)

Player
AdjGS GmSc/Min Line
Phil Pressey 21.8 0.56 39 Min, 26 Pts (10-22 FG, 3-6 3PT, 3-5 FT), 5 Ast, 3 Reb (3 Off), 3 TO
Laurence Bowers 17.2 0.51 34 Min, 16 Pts (8-14 FG), 8 Reb (3 Off)
Alex Oriakhi 15.8 0.66 24 Min, 9 Pts (4-6 FG, 1-1 FT), 7 Reb (3 Off)
Stefan Jankovic 7.8 0.52 15 Min, 5 Pts (2-2 FG, 1-1 3PT), 3 Reb
Keion Bell 2.1 0.12 17 Min, 2 Pts (1-1 FG), 4 Reb, 2 TO
Earnest Ross 2.1 0.09 24 Min, 5 Pts (1-9 FG, 0-2 3PT, 3-6 FT), 7 Reb (3 Off)
Ryan Rosburg 0.8 0.21 4 Min
Negus Webster-Chan 0.0 0.00 8 Min
Jabari Brown -1.7 -0.05 35 Min, 3 Pts (1-9 FG, 1-4 3PT), 5 Reb, 2 Stl
Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
Poss.
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %T/O
Pressey 37% 43% 5.0 48% 36% 10% 5%
Bowers 23% 50% 1.4 0% 93% 0% 7%
Oriakhi 14% 65% 1.7 45% 46% 10% 0%
Jankovic 7% 100% 1.7 75% 25% 0% 0%
Bell 9% 31% 0.6 0% 33% 0% 67%
Ross 28% 20% 3.1 25% 38% 32% 4%
Brown 15% 9% 0.9 0% 90% 0% 10%
  • Phil Pressey has spent a decent portion of his 2.5 seasons in black and gold getting scolded by Mizzou fans for shooting too much or getting out of control. But in the last two games, I think we have seen the best, most mature version of Flip yet. I realize that's an odd thing to say about a point guard who has attempted 44 shots in two games, but aside from a late period in the UCLA game (when, again, he had been carrying the team for 35 straight minutes), Flip has let the game come to him and has done whatever the game dictated he do. Against UCLA, that meant driving and dishing, repeatedly, ad nauseum. Against Bucknell, however, that meant something different.

    Bucknell basically chose to attack the Mizzou offense with the Stopping Wesley Stokes approach: stop the drive with all of your might, even if it means he's shooting open jumpers. Really, this is probably the smartest way to stop Mizzou's halfcourt offense. Flip is often cold from the floor. Luckily for Mizzou, he wasn't cold on Saturday. He shot 3-for-6 on 3-pointers and 7-for-16 on 2-pointers, but he still managed five assists (and was denied a few more by putrid shooting from others). He once again proved to be by far the most important Mizzou player on the roster, and in the end, he won the game for the Tigers.
  • That Mizzou beat a decent team with Earnest Ross and Jabari Brown shooting 2-for-18 is really, really impressive.
  • That Earnest Ross and Jabari Brown shot 2-for-18 is really, really terrifying.
  • Ryan Rosburg and Negus Webster-Chan: 12 minutes of nothing. Rosburg grabbed a defensive rebound, blocked a shot and committed a foul. NWC did literally nothing worth getting into the box score. What we thought was nine-man depth has pretty quickly become a seven-man rotation.

The Formula

  1. An offensive rebounding percentage at 40 percent or better. NO. Mizzou's OR% was 34%.

  2. Fewer than 10 turnovers. YES. Mizzou committed eight turnovers.

  3. An offensive FTA/FGA ratio of 25 percent or better. NO. Mizzou's FTA/FGA was 19%.

  4. Hold the opponent below 40 percent shooting overall. CLOSE. Bucknell shot 42%.

  5. Hold the opponent below 30 percent from 3-point land. NO. Bucknell shot 44%.

  6. Fewer than 15 assists per game for the opponent. YES. Bucknell had 14 assists.

Three Keys Revisited

From Friday's preview.

When Mizzou Misses

This game pits one of the nation's best offensive rebounding teams against one of the best defensive rebounding teams. If Bucknell can at least break even on this side of the glass, the Bison could hang around for 40 minutes. Mizzou is so reliant on second-chance points that not getting them might make the offense press quite a bit. And against a good FG% defense, that is a little scary.

Granted, players not named Brown or Ross shot 56 percent, but Mizzou still missed 36 field goal attempts and five free throws, and Bucknell actually held the Tigers to one fewer offensive rebound than expected. Most of that was Mike Muscala -- he alone had 10 of the Bison's 25 defensive rebounds -- but it still happened. Oriakhi, Bowers, Ross and (strangely) Pressey each grabbed three offensive boards, but when you miss so many shots, that isn't quite enough. Bucknell is now 15th in the country in Defensive Rebound % (the highest-ranked SEC teams: Florida and Tennessee at 27th and 28th), so it's not like this was a shameful rebounding performance by Missouri. But it still prevented Mizzou from running away with the game.

Manage Muscala

Again, if Oriakhi is able to neutralize Muscala (who can, at times, step away from the basket and make jumpers like UCLA's Wear twins), Mizzou wins. But if he doesn't, it starts a bit of a domino effect. Hold Muscala to at or below his season averages, and you're in very good shape.

Muscala in the first half: 20 minutes, 16 points (6-11 FG, 4-6 FT), 8 rebounds, 2 assists.
Muscala in the second half: 14 minutes, 9 points (4-6 FG, 1-3 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 TOs

Muscala was the reason Bucknell led by four points at half, but it came with a price. He still had 9 & 6 in the second half, but he was fried and far more error-prone. So Mizzou played rope-a-dope, in other words. Whatever. It worked.

Play Your Game

Mizzou doesn't play Mike Anderson ball anymore, obviously. The Tigers aren't going to be pressing and attempting to push the tempo into the mid-70s. But they are taking on a team with experience and an extremely strong identity. Bucknell knows exactly what it is, and if the Bison suck Mizzou into playing an incredibly slow game, fighting to a draw on the boards, and turning this into a game of FG% and mistakes, Mizzou is in trouble. But if the Tigers rebound well, get second-chance points, play smart, physical defense and avoid offensive funks, they'll move to 11-2.

Mizzou scored just two points from the 15:43 mark of the first half to the 11:05 mark, but Bucknell only scored six points in the same span. Then Mizzou scored just one point from the 9:57 mark to the 3:55 mark and saw a 17-17 game turn into a 24-18 deficit. So yeah, Mizzou didn't really avoid the offensive funk very well at first, but Bucknell couldn't pull away very much. Meanwhile, Bucknell indeed fought Mizzou to a draw on the glass. Mizzou did get the pace kicked up a bit in the second half, and the game stretched just beyond the 60-61 possession mark that Bucknell was probably aiming for, so that helped, but for the most part Bucknell played Bucknell's game better than Mizzou played Mizzou's game.

Summary

Right around the time that Bryson Johnson made that 30-foot shot-clock 3-pointer in the second half, I began to come to grips with the fact that Saturday might end up becoming a "sports are stupid" day. Mizzou responded to that stupidity well, but when Phil Pressey missed the front end of a one-and-one with 11 seconds left, I accepted defeat. That Missouri could survive poor shooting, neutral rebounding and some untimely bounces is certainly good news.

Remember: Pomeroy only projected Mizzou to win this game by six points; it was supposed to be pretty damn close, even without Ross and Brown shooting 2-for-18. A 12-point win would have felt a lot better, but Mizzou got some close-game experience versus the type of salty mid-major the Tigers might be facing in the Round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament, and the Tigers prevailed. It would be easy to overthink this one and fret, but there's no time for that: SEC play begins tomorrow.

---

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 a no-offense big man, 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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