Mizzou's road problems: a look into the cause

Stacy Revere

We all know how Mizzou's season has gone thus far outside of the friendly confines of Mizzou Arena. What do the Tigers have to do to turn things around in time to make a run at the NCAA Tournament?

So here we are, a little over halfway through conference play in our first season in the SEC and instead of having our questions answered by our team's play, it seems more questions have been raised because of the difference between Mizzou's play at home and on the road. At home, it seems the Tigers can play with just about anyone. The shots fall, the defense can be stifling, and if you only watch them play in Columbia you'd think this is a top 10 team. Turn on the TV when Missouri is playing anywhere else, and you'd understand why this team is on the verge of not making the tournament. What's the problem exactly? Who's to blame? Can it be fixed? Well I'm sure if there was a definitive answer to that question, our coaches and players would have found it by now. I'm gonna take a swing at finding the issue comparing some numbers between home and road games in conference play, and maybe we can see who needs to change their game and how they should go about doing it.

After talking with Bill, I decided the best stats to look at are FG%, Offensive and Defensive Rebounding, Turnovers, Assists, and Shot Distribution. How well we're shooting, rebounding, and protecting/distributing the ball is a pretty good gauge of how the game went. Shot Distribution will tell us who should/shouldn't be shooting the ball and at the same time whose injuries impacted this team the most. So first let's look at how this team performs when they're at their best, playing at home.

Team Stats: Home

FG% OFF REB DEF REB AST T/O
ALABAMA (84-68) 56.6% 5 22 18 10
GEORGIA (79-62) 48.1% 13 18 14 9
USC (71-65) 33.3% 16 28 10 13
VANDY (81-59) 54.9% 11 29 15 14
AUBURN (91-77) 54.5% 8 25 17 11
OLE MISS (98-79) 47.3% 22 28 14 9

So at home, Mizzou shoots an average of 49.1%, which is pretty damn strong. If almost half of your shots are falling, you're at least giving yourself a chance to win a game. A lot of those shots come off of second chance opportunities, and Mizzou averages 12.5 offensive rebounds a game, another pretty impressive stat. Averaging 25 defensive rebounds means the Tigers are pulling down 37.5 boards a game, making them one of the best rebounding teams at home in the country. The ball gets spread around decently at home too, with the team averaging 14.7 assists a game. Not incredible by any means, but not bad. Missouri still turns the ball over 13.3 times a game at home, a number that could definitely be improved upon. All in all, pretty strong performances that are helping the Tigers continue to be undefeated and win by an average of 14.6 points a game at home.

Now that we've seen how the team as a whole plays, let's see who is responsible for getting those points on the board in the first place. We're going to take a look at who is/should be taking the shots for us by looking at individual FG%, and a shots per minutes number. Who is taking the most shots per minute and getting the most/least out of it? Just so everyone isn't here for four hours, I broke all the individual stats into averages already before plugging them into the table. Keep in mind, these are only for home games.

Individual Stats: Home

PTS FGA FGM FG% MPG SPM PPM
Keion Bell 14.2 8.2 5.2 63.4% 24.0 0.2 0.6
Laurence Bowers 10.7 7.7 4.0 52.1% 25.7 0.3 0.4
Jabari Brown 16.7 11.0 5.2 47.0% 32.3 0.3 0.5
Alex Oriakhi 16.3 7.0 5.3 76.1% 29.7 0.2 0.6
Phil Pressey 10.0 9.7 3.7 38.0% 30.3 0.3 0.3
Tony Criswell 6.0 5.4 2.0 37.0% 24.4 0.2 0.3
Negus Webster-Chan 1.7 0.8 0.2 20.5% 10.7 0.1 0.2
Earnest Ross 16.2 11.0 5.3 48.5% 30.2 0.4 0.6
Ryan Rosburg 0.7 0.2 0.0 0.0 5.3 0.0 0.1
Stefan Jankovic 1.5 2.5 0.3 13.0% 7.8 0.3 0.2

It seems the usual suspects are responsible for Missouri's scoring success at home, with the starting five plus Ross doing almost all of the scoring. All six of them are averaging double figures in points, and all but Phil are averaging over 45% shooting. Oriakhi is EXTREMELY efficient down low, with a FG% of 76.1% on 7.0 shots per game. The guy is an absolute monster under the rim at home, and is a huge reason for this team's dominance at Mizzou Arena. Aside from Oriakhi, the other five main contributors distribute the scoring/shooting pretty evenly, with everyone but Bell (who is just ridiculously efficient at home apparently) putting up between .30-.36 shots per minute. Bell only shoots .24 times a minute, but my goodness does he make the most of it with .59 points per minute. As we'll see in a bit, we could definitely use some of that on the road. The funniest thing to me was the confirmation of Jankovic's "WILD CARD, BITCHES" status, as he likes to use his minutes to jack up some shots regardless of if they go in or not. The dude likes to take .33 shots per minute during his 7.8 minutes per game, even though he only shoots 13%... Awesome.

Ok, we've established that Mizzou is pretty damn good at home, they're pretty efficient offensively and distribute the scoring pretty well. Now let's take a look at how the team as a whole does on their road trips around the SEC.

Team Stats: Away

FG% OFF REB DEF REB AST T/O
@OLE MISS (49-64) 36.8% 11 25 9 19
@FLORIDA (52-83) 32.7% 6 19 8 21
@LSU (70-73) 37.7% 16 23 7 8
@TAMU (68-70) 45.7% 10 21 10 16

So FG% on the road takes a DRASTIC drop from an average of 49.1 to 38.2. That's, uh, not good at all. The two worst shooting performances were against really good defenses in Florida and Ole Miss, but if Missouri is to be an elite team, you can't shoot 32%. As far as rebounding on the road goes, Mizzou faces another huge dropoff. At home, 37.5 rebounds, on the road only 32.75 That's losing about 5 opportunities a game. As far as turnovers go, Mizzou averages about 11 at home. Not great, but not terrible by any means. On the road, 16. So the Tigers make ten percent less of their shots, lose about 5 rebounds a game, and turn the ball over five more times. Starting to see how these things add up against bad teams? So I guess it's time to figure out who the culprits behind these dropoffs are.

Individual Stats: Away

PTS FGA FGM FG% MPG SPM PPM
Keion Bell 12.3 9.0 4.3 48.1% 29.3 0.3 0.4
Laurence Bowers 8.5 6.5 3.5 53.8% 22.0 0.3 0.4
Jabari Brown 14.8 12.0 4.0 33.3% 37.3 0.3 0.4
Alex Oriakhi 6.0 4.0 2.0 50.0% 20.8 0.2 0.3
Phil Pressey 12.5 12.5 4.8 38.0% 36.5 0.3 0.3
Tony Criswell 5.3 4.8 2.0 42.1% 21.8 0.2 0.2
Negus Webster-Chan 0.8 1.8 0.3 14.3% 11.8 0.2 0.1
Earnest Ross 4.5 5.3 1.5 28.6% 19.0 0.3 0.2
Ryan Rosburg 0.8 1.0 0.3 25.0% 13.5 0.1 0.1
Stefan Jankovic 2.3 2.3 0.7 28.8% 6.0 0.4 0.4

Who stands out to you first when comparing home vs. road stats? Easy, it's Alex Oriakhi. We've all said how much he disappears on the road, but he really, really does disappear on the road. He goes from being an absolute unstoppable force at home to being the equivalent of basically a bench player on the road. Yeah, he shoots 50%, but he's only taking 4 shots a game. There's absolutely no reason for that, aside from being in foul trouble (which is also often times his fault). As we stated before, the offense runs inside out when it's successful, and when your bigs don't produce, you're not going to win. To be fair, Bowers didn't play much on the road because of injury, and that is a big reason for Missouri's struggles. As far as everyone else goes, Phil's scoring actually improved as did his FG%. Yeah, we all complain he shoots too much, but without Bowers in the lineup, the only other reliable scorers he had were Jabari Brown and Keion Bell (who was also fighting injury). Ross played Houdini on the road, too, shooting 28.6% and eating up a good amount of shots per minute, so as far as manufacturing points, it came down to Phil and Jabari at times. Our bench does next to nothing to put points on the board, so that makes it hard to give any of our guys the rest they need. Jabari and Phil were forced to play almost the whole 40 minutes, and they've shown they can't carry this team to win by themselves. In short, it goes to show how important having our full rotation is week in and week out, because our bench just can't step up and provide the scoring we need to compete on the road.

The most important factors to help Mizzou win on the road are actually pretty simple, and probably didn't require a ton of numbers to discover. First, Alex Oriakhi and Earnest Ross need to figure out whatever their issues are and pump up their contributions when on the road. We need Oriakhi's rebounds, scoring, and defense, and you can see it's basically a direct correlation between his struggles and the team's struggles. We all wanna put the team's successes and failures on Pressey, which isn't all unfair, but it's clear that there are multiple guys on this team that are pretty indispensable. Ross makes the offense much more dynamic when he's a scoring threat too, and Phil really relies on him at times, so he's really gotta get his act together as well. Second, we need to stay healthy. Bowers hasn't quite played like himself lately, but just having him in the game makes this team much, much better. Keion has really started to figure it out lately, and according to the stats he is quickly becoming our primary scorer. We've only played four road games so far, and we haven't played one with all of our guys truly at 100% yet, aside from Texas A&M (which in all honesty Mizzou really should have won). So while the struggles seemed to be pretty inexplicable, it actually kind of comes down to some simple stuff. Health and effort. We need all our guys to be in the game, meaning they need to be actually on the court, and when they're on the court they need to play like it. We don't have anyone that can step in and replace the production our seven-man rotation relies on, so hopefully now that we have our guys back, we'll see a less depressing performance when we play outside of Columbia. The tournament is no given at this point, and as Bill has already pointed out, these next few games for us are HUGE. We've gotta win at Mississippi State, and wins at Arkansas and Kentucky would put our tournament worries to rest. Let's get it done Tigers.

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