WVU 71 Mizzou 80: Two Post-Game Thoughts

Dak Dillon-USA TODAY Sports

Non-Big Three Edition

The Huggables missed shots they normally make, but still. That was a fine defensive performance by our Tigers. West Virginia is a talented offensive team, and I suspect that by the end of the season this win will be a valuable entry on their March resume.

I'll focus focus my two thoughts on the non-Big Three players, since we know what the Big Three can do.

1. Backcourt

This was a very nice "I see you" game from Wesley Clark. If Clark can bring 20-25 productive minutes, allowing Haith to rest Clarkson some, or at least reduce his load, we may be onto something. Clark played 21 minutes (seemed like more), many of them as Missouri built its lead. Five dimes with a single turnover? Yes, please. Five trips to the free throw line, and 5-for-5? All day, everyday Haith would take that.

Like a lot of young point guards, Clark excelled in the up-and-down game with the floor all laid out in front of him but then struggled when Missouri needed to slow the game down. (But really, is there any reason this Missouri team shouldn't be pushing tempo most of the time? Maybe not Fastest 40, but this team should run at just about every conceivable opportunity.) Clark's performance was solid, but far from a flawless. His one official turnover belies occasionally shaky decision making against the trap when the Tigers were trying to slow things down. Following John Wooden's dictum to be "quick but not in a hurry," especially when balancing a big lead against the clock, may be the toughest part of being a point guard. So I'm not going to hammer the kid for a little inconsistency. To be fair, I can't even say with any confidence that Clarkson is better at that aspect of the game himself.

We saw very little of Shane Rector (whose name I've been consistently reading as "Reston" for some God-unbeknownst reason). So it's looking increasingly like Haith is only going to play two PGs most nights.

2. Frontcourt

The frontcourt was more of a mixed bag, and my impression is that it may stay that way this season. Two straight invisible games from JW3 have triggered the mildest bit of concern. I anticipated something of a bounceback effort from him in this game, but he did next to nothing in 28 minutes. There are lots of moving parts here, so it's going to be difficult to nail down a cause. Perhaps he has a minor injury. Missouri runs no plays for him. He's a hustle guy, and he may need a few games to adjust to the leap in opponents' overall frontcourt athleticism. Perhaps this is the first in a series of "walls" that players hit throughout the season. I'm not at all the panicky type. I have every reason to believe that JW3 will continue to be one of the outstanding freshmen in the country this year, even if Parker, Randle, Wiggins, and Gordon remove all the oxygen. But, it's fair to say that JW3 has hit his first rocky patch. It'll be interesting to see how he responds.

Nice game (excellent even) by Criswell. As I was flipping back and forth to Knicks/Nets I evidently missed a good deal of his solid play because I mostly only remember the bad stuff. At one point in the game thread I snarked that Criswell does nothing good. That came after his one miss from the field, off a nice offensive rebound. The ball rolled off and I was ready to throw something. That ball most definitely needed to be kicked out rather than shot. He also had plays where he wasn't particularly ball strong and wasn't able to secure balls in his area. But still, look at the box score: 3-of-4 from the floor for 8 points in 26 minutes. Add in 10 boards with just two turnovers and two fouls. Now don't I look like a big effin' jerk?! The points are a bonus, but almost 14 boards per 36 minutes? Again, yes please. My bad Mr. Criswell. Excelsior to you, good sir! If Clark continues to mature into a solid facilitator and Criswell can provide a consistent 12-14 boards per 36-- Seriously, we might really be onto something.

On the other hand, Rosburg and Post played but didn't bring much to the table. Haith, I think, is going to be flying blind with his frontcourt all season. There's just no way to know who is going to do what coming into each game.

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