Study Hall: Mizzou 63, Florida 60

USA TODAY Sports

Your Trifecta: Bowers-Pressey-Bell. Your winner: Nobody? Huh.

Missouri 63, Florida 60

Mizzou
Florida
Pace (No. of Possessions) 65.6
Points Per Possession (PPP) 0.96 0.91
Points Per Shot (PPS) 1.19 1.11
2-PT FG% 58.1% 57.1%
3-PT FG% 22.7% 30.3%
FT% 80.0% 50.0%
True Shooting % 52.9% 50.6%
Mizzou Florida
Assists 11 10
Steals 8 10
Turnovers 19 14
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.00 1.43
Mizzou Florida
Expected Offensive Rebounds 11 12
Offensive Rebounds 12 8
Difference +1 -4

I mean, that's pretty much how you do it, huh?

Match Florida in the FG% department, stay reasonably close in ball-handling, win on the glass ... voila! Granted, the 14-2 and 15-4 Florida runs gave Missouri some impressive degree of difficulty, but if you told me Missouri won, and I didn't see one second of the game, I'd have assumed the box would look something like this. (Honestly, with this box, I'd have assumed Mizzou won by six to eight, not three.

Hello, defense.

For four games in a row now, Mizzou has held an opponent below its season-long points-per-possession averages. It started slow (Ole Miss was averaging 1.12 and averaged 1.11), but it has snowballed in the last three games. Mississippi State was averaging 0.91 and managed just 0.55. Arkansas was averaging 1.08 and was held to 0.97. And last night, Florida came in averaging 1.20 but managed just 0.91. That's fantastic. Granted, part of that was Florida missing 3-pointers -- the Gators shot nine percent below their season average -- but still, Mizzou forced 14 turnovers (eight via steal) and did an absolutely phenomenal job on the defensive glass.

Mizzou Player Stats

(Definitions at the bottom of the post.)

Player
AdjGS GmSc/Min Line
Laurence Bowers 17.1 0.52 33 Min, 17 Pts (8-17 FG, 0-4 3PT, 1-2 FT), 10 Reb (2 Off), 2 Stl, 4 PF
Phil Pressey 15.5 0.40 39 Min, 7 Pts (2-5 FG, 0-1 3PT, 3-3 FT), 10 Ast, 6 Reb (3 Off), 3 Stl, 5 TO, 4 PF
Keion Bell 10.0 0.32 31 Min, 9 Pts (3-4 FG, 1-2 3PT, 2-2 FT), 4 Reb, 2 Stl, 4 TO
Jabari Brown 7.2 0.21 35 Min, 12 Pts (3-10 FG, 3-9 3PT, 3-4 FT), 2 Reb
Alex Oriakhi 3.6 0.14 26 Min, 5 Pts (2-3 FG, 1-2 FT), 4 Reb, 2 Blk, 3 TO
Earnest Ross 3.0 0.12 25 Min, 11 Pts (4-11 FG, 1-6 3PT, 2-2 FT), 4 Reb (2 Off), 5 TO
Tony Criswell 2.2 0.22 10 Min, 2 Pts (1-3 FG), 4 Reb
Ryan Rosburg 1.0 1.01 1 Min
Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
Poss.
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %T/O
Bowers 29% 40% 1.8 0% 85% 10% 5%
Pressey 15% 44% 5.6 82% 7% 4% 7%
Bell 15% 40% 1.6 37% 25% 13% 25%
Brown 19% 29% 1.3 0% 67% 27% 7%
Oriakhi 13% 31% 0.9 0% 38% 25% 38%
Ross 34% 25% 2.2 0% 61% 11% 28%
Criswell 15% 29% 0.9 0% 100% 0% 0%

That's right: Only two Tigers had at least one assist, and Keion Bell had only one. For the people who have spent as much time complaining about Phil Pressey as they did complaining about James Franklin last fall ... again, he's the only option. Granted, he could have cost Missouri severely with that poor final possession (the one that resulted in the long, foolish 3-point attempt), but he was once again mostly incredible over the game's final 10 minutes.

Man oh man, does Flip miss Ricardo Ratliffe. Ratliffe was Flip's drive-and-dish muse last season, and it made Missouri a much better "milk the clock" team last year than we perhaps remember. But this year, a combination of Ratliffe's absence and the simple fact that opponents don't have to respect Flip's 3-point shot until he starts making them and can sag off of him a bit more (he's shooting 29.7% from long-range this year, as opposed to 36.5% last year and 36.1% the year before) have limited his ability to beat his man off the dribble and find an open option in the lane. Without that option, Flip doesn't seem to know what to do with the ball.

At this point, as Michael Atchison suggested here, it's almost as if the best option is to not milk the clock at all. That's not going to happen, but perhaps it should. That said ... again, while we remember the final possessions of a game more than others, Flip was once again good to great for most of the last 10 minutes. And he was mostly money in the final minutes. Mizzou had scored eight points in their previous four possessions, mostly because of Pressey; he found Brown for an open 3-pointer with 3:10 left, scored an and-one in transition with 2:47 left, and after a poor turnover by Keion Bell (the other proposed point guard), he assisted in Laurence Bowers' jumper with 1:15 left. He outplayed Scottie Wilbekin and helped Missouri win the game.

Other thoughts:

  • Man oh man, did Earnest Ross toe the line between emotion and destruction when he got called for a travel with 18 seconds left. It was a travel -- unlike the call late in the Arkansas game -- but he came really close to getting called for a T for his reaction. Harness it, man.
  • I agree with dcrockett17: Alex Oriakhi did some serious behind-the-scenes work yesterday. His stat line wasn't that amazing, but thanks to him, neither was Patric Young's. I love it when Missouri works inside-out, but it just isn't going to always work with Oriakhi; but he found a way to make a difference last night.
  • I would love for somebody to calculate Jabari Brown's late-game 3-point percentage. He began the game 1-for-5 from long range but made two of four in the final 10 minutes. And you just knew that shot with three minutes left was going in.
  • From The Beef on gchat this morning: "Had Ross' three [after the Pressey steal, with 5:25 left] gone down, I think it would have popped as loud as anything has ever." I think I agree. Obviously it would be hard to beat Marcus Denmon's late 3s versus Kansas last year or Zaire Taylor's shot versus Kansas in 2009, but the suddenness of the moment would have created a ridiculous pop.
  • Welcome back to the party, Party Starter. Wasn't the same without you.
  • That's actually all I'm going to say about Laurence Bowers at the moment. We all have a strange emotional investment in his well-being, and he looked awfully "well" yesterday.

Three Keys Revisited

From yesterday's preview.

Either take Murphy out, or wear Murphy out

Florida has overcome size issues just fine -- the Gators were, after all, thumping Kentucky even before Nerlens Noel went down -- but Erik Murphy is a little foul-prone, and Missouri does have better depth on the interior. If Mizzou could either draw a couple of early fouls on Murphy (perhaps with foul magnet Alex Oriakhi?) or simply go about physically punishing him as much as possible, it would help the cause dramatically. If he is able to play upwards of 30 minutes, and if he has plenty of legs for his jumper, he is devastating.

OR, just let him keep Missouri in the game with poor shooting in the first half. Murphy was 0-for-6 from the field in the first half, and with just two rebounds a foul and a turnover, he was a complete non-factor. He was much better in the second half (3-for-5 overall, 2-for-4 on 3-pointers, with an assist and a block), but his early struggles bought Missouri the time I wanted MIssouri to buy by getting him on the bench.

The glass

It is really, really difficult to win the FG% battle versus Florida. But if you can win on the glass, earning a few second-chance opportunities on one end while preventing the same (after rare misses) on the other, you can make up that difference. Mizzou was -8 in terms of expected rebounds the first time these two teams played. You will get blown out by Florida every time if you can't compete on the glass ... especially considering Florida's ball-handling advantage.

Expected Rebounds: Mizzou +5

Phil Pressey grabbed two more offensive rebounds than Patric Young. That'll do.

Flipadelphia

This is the key to pretty much every game, isn't it? Phil Pressey had perhaps the worst game of his career in Missouri's January trip to Gainesville: two points on 1-for-7 shooting, with 10 turnovers. He did have six assists (somewhat impressive considering Mizzou players not named Pressey made just 15 shots) and two steals, but let's just say that Flip will have to do just a little better than 14% shooting with a 0.8 BCI.

Meanwhile, Pressey's counterpart Scottie Wilbekin (who might be the most underrated player in the country at this point) scored 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting, with 10 assists, three steals and three turnovers. When Missouri loses, opposing point guards typically go off. Compare the Flip and Wilbekin stat lines, and you'll probably figure out who won.

Pressey: 39 minutes, 10 points (2-5 FG), 10 assists, 3 steals, 5 turnovers, 6 rebounds
Wilbekin: 35 minutes, 8 points (3-6 FG), 4 assists, 0 steals, 2 turnovers, 5 rebounds

Advantage: Pressey.

Summary

It is really easy to do two types of daydreaming this morning. On one hand, it's easy to realize that Florida was the last truly strong opponent Missouri will face in the regular season. Kentucky (without Nerlens Noel), Arkansas and Tennessee are all solid, of course, while LSU beat Missouri in Baton Rouge and South Carolina tried to do the same at Mizzou Arena. Other than perhaps LSU at home, there isn't a gimme left on the schedule either. But if Missouri can bottle up the level of play it has shown for most of the last four games and change, a 24-7 record could certainly be in play. One should never assume a win at Rupp Arena, and I'm not going to do that now, but it's easy to project this level of play forward and see really good things.

And on the other hand, it's really easy to think of what could have been if Missouri had figured out a way to be about three points better against UCLA, LSU, Texas A&M and Arkansas. Mizzou is 4-5 possessions from a 23-3 record. (They're also about 3-4 possessions from 16-10, of course.)

Regardless of what could have been, however, what currently is is this: Missouri is playing its best basketball of the season at the most important point in the season. The Tigers could have lost yesterday's game really easily, and there would have been no shame in it. But they kept pecking away, kept fighting, and played their 10 best minutes in the final 10 minutes. The defense has suddenly come around (from 105th in Pomeroy's defensive rankings two weeks ago to 57th today), and overall Mizzou has risen from 48th to 23rd in Pomeroy's rankings in a very short amount of time.

Last night was fun. Let's have some more fun on Saturday.

---

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 an offensively limited center, 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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