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Classic Study Hall: Mizzou 79, Kansas State 69 (2004)

Image via <a href="">The Trib / Jenna Isaacson</a>
Image via The Trib / Jenna Isaacson

After seven straight terrible trips to Manhattan, we're going to use our Classic Study Hall space to look at how things played out the last time Mizzou DID win at Bramlage.  We've spoken a lot about the 2003-04 team -- mostly in mournful or negative tones, obviously -- but the team did produce some great moments.  The second half in Manhattan was one of those sustained moments.

It's All There

This game featured all the great and terrible aspects of this team.

Good: Offensive Diversity.  Arthur Johnson scored off of a variety of post moves and short jumpers, Thomas Gardner gave MIzzou a boost in the first half, Jason Conley got hot from long range, and Rickey Paulding went DEFCON 1 in the second half.  Despite a first-half slump, Mizzou averaged a robust 1.24 points per possession.  When things started to click for this team offensively, it was incredible to watch.  (And this says nothing of the fact that Linas Kleiza was injured and out for the rest of the season.)

Bad: Defense.  This was not a very good Kansas State team, finishing 14-14 and ranking 103rd in Ken Pomeroy's offensive rankings.  And yet they averaged 1.08 points per possession and led the Tigers by a healthy margin early in the second half.  KSU didn't shoot particularly well, but Mizzou's complete inability to force turnovers held them back for quite a while.  KSU forged ahead at halftime, thanks in part to the fact that they committed just three turnovers.

Good: Rebounding.  Between Travon Bryant on the offensive glass and Arthur Johnson's box-out skills on defense, Mizzou won the rebounding battle by three in terms of expected rebounds, and against a decent rebounding team in KSU.

Bad: Ball Handling.  Even in their good moments, Quin Snyder's teams were nearly direct opposites of Mike Anderson's team.  This team was only average in avoiding turnovers on offense and terrible at forcing turnovers on defense, and it showed here.  Mizzou managed a solid 2.00 BCI thanks to 18 assists ... but they still lost the BCI battle by a decent margin.

Mizzou 79, Kansas State 69

Pace (No. of Possessions)
Points Per Minute
1.98 1.73
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.24 1.08
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.41 1.19
2-PT FG% 48.5% 44.0%
3-PT FG% 47.8% 50.0%
FT% 66.7% 61.9%
True Shooting % 60.5% 51.3%
Mizzou Opp.
Assists 18 17
Steals 4 7
Turnovers 11 9
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
2.00 2.67
Mizzou Opp.
Expected Offensive Rebounds 11 13
Offensive Rebounds 13 12
Difference +2 -1

Round By Round

Since we're in more of a "round by round recaps" mood than normal here today, let's walk through this game the same way that we walked through yesterday's MU-KSU game this morning.  This game had next to no flow for quite a while until KSU landed some blows and, eventually, woke Mizzou up.

Round 1:  A recent development in terms of televising basketball games is the way networks now go to a TV timeout before free throws are attempted.  This wasn't the case in 2004 -- if I remember correctly, they only went to a timeout if a player made the second free throw.  Thanks to this, sometimes these "rounds" lasted much, much longer.  Case in point: "Round 1" lasted until the 13:30 mark of the first half.  And what a forgettable round it was.  Mizzou opened up the proceedings by bombing away long range with little effectiveness.  They missed four of five 3-pointers in the first half.  The inside game came around, as A.J. grabbed a couple of offensive rebounds and made a jumper, while starter Thomas Gardner was effective around the hoop as well.  Jarrett Hart made a couple of 3's for KSU, however, and the game was tied at 11-11.  Round 1: 10-10.

Round 2:  Round 2 was just as long, and much, much sloppier.  Miss, miss, miss, miss.  Spelling A.J., Kevin Young grabbed three offensive rebounds in two possessions and hit a short jumper, while equally stiff Kansas State big man Tyler Hughes scored as well.  Hart traded baskets with Gardner and Conley, then A.J. scored a couple of baskets.  Neither team generates any sustainable momentum, however, and with 7:44 left (!), the second round ends with Mizzou up, 20-19.  Round 2: 10-10.

Round 3:  When you have two lengthy rounds like the ones above (by the way, think about how much this setup for TV timeouts could help Mizzou; remember how tired Baylor was early on with fewer stoppages?), you inevitably end up with a round like this one.  KSU's Tim Ellis made a jumper, then Justin Williams committed a foul ... and after 22 seconds, round three was over with KSU up, 21-20.  Round 3: 10-10.  A complete snoozer so far.

Round 4:  With both teams having received plenty of rest with the timeouts, the action began to pick up here ... even if the quality did not.  KSU was up 25-23 when Marques Hayden missed a layup.  Travon Bryant rebounded to Conley, who quickly found soon-to-be Denver Nuggets exec Josh Kroenke for the go-ahead 3-pointer, Kroenke's only shot attempt of the game. The teams then traded misses and turnovers.  Bryant missed a dunk, and the round ended with KSU holding a 27-26 lead.  Through 16:19 of action, neither team has gone on anything resembling a run.  Round 4: 10-10.

Round 5: Finally, somebody makes a move, and it's not Mizzou.  With the Tigers unable to make a shot, KSU moved ahead thanks to Jeremiah Massey and a Hughes dunk.  Bryant made a couple of free throws (Mizzou shot just 4-for-9 from the line in the first half), but KSU closed the half on a 10-2 run, opening a 35-28 lead.  After four stagnant rounds, KSU scores a surprise knockdown. Round 5: 10-8 KSU.

For those who were not yet fully-religious Mizzou fans at this point, here's a bit of context: three weeks earlier, Mizzou got smoked in Lincoln to fall to 9-10 overall, 4-5 in conference.  After starting the season ranked in the top ten, they had lost nine of 14 games.  They were in a devastating free fall.  But then, things had begun to turn around.  To make the tournament, they basically needed to win out over their final eight games -- or at least go 7-1.  They handled Colorado, UNLV and Iowa State with ease, then avoided disaster on the road against Baylor.  They upset soon-to-be-Final-Four-team Oklahoma State in double overtime, an absolute thriller in Columbia.  Suddenly, they had won five in a row and, after the OSU win, started to take on the look of a team ready to make a killer run into March.  And now they were down seven against a bad K-State team at halftime.  Sometimes you need a little more adversity to raise your level of greatness ... and Mizzou was very much about to raise their level in the second half.

Round 6:  Time for the Rickey Paulding show.  Knowing Mizzou could not suffer another unacceptable loss, Paulding put the team on his back.  After a Hayden jumper raised KSU's lead to 37-28, Jimmy McKinney made a free throw, then A.J. a jumper.  Then ... this happened.

There are back-breakers, and then there are back-breakers.  Paulding completed the three-point play (the poor KSU defender got whistled for an emasculation foul), then Hayden turned the ball over.  Bryant made a jumper, then Hayden turned the ball over again.  Only the bell could save an out-on-their-feet Wildcats squad.  Round 6: 10-8 MU.

Round 7: After the timeout, Paulding took things to another level.  He made back-to-back 3-pointers in a 35-second span to give Mizzou a 42-39 lead, then Bryant made his patented top-of-the-key 3-pointer.  KSU missed three of four free throws, then McKinney -- who had an atrocious game to this point -- made yet another three to cap a devastating 20-3 run.  The round ends with Mizzou up 48-42 with 11:47 left, though it felt more like 68-42.  Round 7: 10-8 MU.

Round 8: K-State's last stand. Ellis made a 3-pointer to cut Mizzou's lead to just three points (and unleash one last wave of paranoia within my brain), but Mizzou unloaded another 8-0 run to end it.  Paulding made yet another 3-pointer, then A.J. made a jumper.  A Bryant block led to a fast-break and-one for Conley, and the ref stepped in.  Eighth-round TKO for Mizzou.  To KSU's credit, they didn't completely fall apart for a 25-point loss -- Mizzou extended the lead to 17 points (thanks mostly to Conley catching fire), but a 13-6 run in the final two minutes minimized the margin of defeat.  Still, this was one of Mizzou's best knockout blows, and it was mostly due to Paulding.

Mizzou Player Stats

(Definitions at the bottom of the post.)

AdjGS GmSc/Min Line
Rickey Paulding (Sr) 22.8 0.60 38 Min, 17 Pts (5-10 FG, 4-7 3PT, 3-3 FT), 8 Ast, 3 Reb
Jason Conley (Jr) 19.9 0.80 25 Min, 20 Pts (5-11 FG, 4-7 3PT, 6-7 FT), 7 Reb, 4 Ast, 4 PF
Arthur Johnson (Sr) 17.2 0.47 37 Min, 14 Pts (7-11 FG, 0-3 FT), 7 Reb, 3 Stl
Travon Bryant (Sr) 8.2 0.24 34 Min, 10 Pts (3-8 FG, 1-3 3PT, 3-4 FT), 7 Reb (4 Off), 2 TO, 4 PF
Thomas Gardner (Fr) 7.0 0.41 17 Min, 7 Pts (3-5 FG, 0-2 3PT, 1-2 FT), 3 Reb (2 Off)
Josh Kroenke (Sr) 3.7 0.31 12 Min, 3 Pts (1-1 3PT), 3 Reb
Kevin Young (So) 3.4 0.34 10 Min, 4 Pts (2-5 FG), 5 Reb (3 Off)
Spencer Laurie (Fr) -1.2 -1.23 1 Min, 1 TO
Jimmy McKinney (So) -3.3 -0.13 26 Min, 4 Pts (1-5 FG, 1-3 3PT, 1-2 FT), 3 Ast, 4 TO, 4 PF
  • This wasn't Paulding's most high-scoring game, but it was perhaps his best.  After a lifeless first half, Mizzou trailed by seven. Paulding had four assists in the first half, but he was scoreless, having attempted just two shots.  Here's his second-half line: 17 points on 5-for-8 shooting (four 3-pointers), four assists, a rebound and a steal.  Twelve of his points came during Mizzou's "knockout" 28-8 run to start the half.  Mizzou needed a leader, and he led.  Seeing his second-half performance made me believe that this team was about to live up to all of its preseason potential.  Whoops.
  • This was easily one of Jason Conley's best games as well.  He performed quite a bit like Paulding in the second half.  He was 1-for-6 in the first half, 4-for-5 in the second.  Paulding was instrumental in building Mizzou's lead, then Conley was the reason they stretched the lead to 73-56.
  • Also instrumental in Mizzou's second-half ridiculousness: Bryant's four offensive rebounds.  For the game, he and Johnson combined for 24 points (just 3-for-7 from the line) and 14 rebounds in 71 minutes.  Not their best performance, but solid.
  • Thomas Gardner was just about the only thing Mizzou had going for them in the first half.
Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %T/O
Paulding 17% 54% 5.0 78% 16% 4% 2%
Conley 32% 46% 5.2 57% 27% 14% 2%
Johnson 17% 52% 1.6 30% 57% 13% 0%
Bryant 18% 33% 1.8 31% 42% 17% 10%
Gardner 21% 45% 2.5 44% 37% 12% 7%
Kroenke 9% 43% 0.5 0% 50% 0% 50%
Young 26% 33% 1.6 0% 100% 0% 0%
Laurie 52% 0% 3.2 0% 0% 0% 100%
McKinney 20% 21% 3.4 62% 18% 6% 14%
  • In a game where Paulding had the best dunk of his career and made four key second-half 3-pointers ... he still managed to pass 78% of the time.  It was one of his oddest, best games.  For all intents and purposes, he was Mizzou's point guard in this game.  A point guard who can jump over defenders for crotch dunks.


This was Mizzou's final great moment of 2003-04.  After a horrid first half, Mizzou had surged ahead.  I don't remember who it was, but directly after this game, a talking head not only predicted Mizzou to safely make the NCAA Tournament, he predicted them to potentially win it.  They left Manhattan a resurgent 15-10.  A week later, they were 15-12.

Despite the exhilaration of the second half, the cracks were still there.  This team simply could not play defense, and now they had to go to Lubbock to face Bobby Knight's well-oiled motion offense.  Disaster followed.  Mizzou got whipped, 87-76, then fell at home to Kansas to close the Hearnes Center.  They limped into the Big 12 Tournament, sneaked by a terrible Texas A&M team, then officially saw their NCAA Tourney hopes squashed when Kansas crushed them, 94-69, in the Big 12 quarterfinals.  Apparently they then lost in the NIT to Michigan, but I can't say I have even one single memory from that game.

It is almost a reflex for Missouri fans when mentioning the 2003-04 team: "So much talent ... too bad they didn't have any coaching."  But while that conventional wisdom is based in truth, this team's main failing was still in their own makeup -- they didn't have all the pieces to be the top ten team they were supposed to be.  Their interior defense and rebounding were solid, but while the lack of a point guard didn't hurt them much on offense, it clearly devastated them defensively.  Jimmy McKinney just wasn't a top notch defender, and Jason Conley was all-or-nothing, racking up a ton of steals and giving up a ton of drives and easy shots.  With Ricky Clemons off the team and embarrassing the program, and both Randy Pulley and Spencer Laurie proving they were not ready for big-time, Big 12 basketball, this team could not defend teams with a deep backcourt.

We get distracted by Paulding and A.J. and all the offensive potential, and we go down the "only bad coaching could get in this team's way" road, but this team was fatally flawed despite the senior leadership.  Make no mistake, this is no acquittal of Quin Snyder.  it was, after all, his fault that this team didn't have all the pieces (not only was the Clemons saga a disaster, but when they signed Clemons, they lost Wesley Stokes to a transfer; Stokes was far from amazing, but he was still an upgrade from Randcer Laurley).  But we seem to glorify this team as better than what it really was -- an offensively explosive team that couldn't stop anybody.




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.  As you would expect, someone like Kim English has a high Usage%, while Steve Moore has an extremely low one.

Floor%: Via 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.