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Study Hall: Kansas

LAWRENCE KS - FEBRUARY 07:  Head coach Mike Anderson of the Missouri Tigers talks with players during the game against the Kansas Jayhawks on February 7 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
LAWRENCE KS - FEBRUARY 07: Head coach Mike Anderson of the Missouri Tigers talks with players during the game against the Kansas Jayhawks on February 7 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Your trifecta: PPressey-Bowers-Ratliffe. Your Winner: nobody. blackgoldorange came awfully close.

As usual, it's my fault.  At halftime, I was marveling a bit at Kansas' ball movement and thinking, if KU beats Mizzou because of ball movement that good (and the 3's resulting from it), then so be it.  Naturally, then, it was a couple of stupid 3's with little to no ball movement that officially put Mizzou away in the second half.  In the end, one truism remained true: when the home team gets some momentum and makes a fadeaway 3-pointer with the shot clock expiring, you're screwed.  The only surprise was that Mario Little's stepback 3-ball with 12:24 left didn't bank in off the glass or something.

Kansas 103, Mizzou 86

Pace (No. of Possessions)
Points Per Minute
2.15 2.58
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.22 1.47
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.48 1.69
2-PT FG% 59.5% 61.9%
3-PT FG% 38.1% 57.9%
FT% 81.8% 64.3%
True Shooting % 63.5% 70.2%
Mizzou KU
Assists 16 23
Steals 5 6
Turnovers 8 12
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
2.63 2.42
Mizzou KU
Expected Offensive Rebounds 10 10
Offensive Rebounds 6 14
Difference -4 +4

19 Miserable, Miserable Possessions

First things first: Mizzou showed up.  Not everybody did, mind you, but despite getting next to nothing from Marcus Denmon and Kim English in the first half (or in English's case, the entire game), Mizzou trailed by just four at halftime thanks to some fantastic work from Laurence Bowers, Ricardo Ratliffe and Phil Pressey.  Unfortunately, Kansas turned ridiculous in the second half.  Here are 19 Kansas possessions from early in the second half:

  • 18:34 - Marcus Morris layup (2 pts) 46-44
  • 17:39 - Marcus Morris and-one (3 pts)
  • 17:08 - Missed layup, offensive rebound, Marcus Morris free throw (1 pt)
  • 16:37 - Missed jumper, offensive rebound, Markieff Morris layup (2 pts)
  • 16:15 - Marcus Morris jumper (2 pts)
  • 15:51 - Tyshawn Taylor 3-pointer (3 pts)
  • 15:19 - Marcus Morris and-one (3 pts -- granted, there was no foul here whatsoever, I mean none, I mean less than none, but alas)
  • 14:57 - Travis Releford 3-pointer (3 pts)
  • 14:14 - Missed 3-pointer (0 pts)
  • 13:55 - Missed jumper, offensive rebound, Thomas Robinson free throws (2 pts)
  • 13:32 - Thomas Robinson dunk (2 pts)
  • 12:24 - Mario Little 3-pointer (3 pts)
  • 11:29 - Travis Releford 3-pointer (3 pts)
  • 10:59 - Missed 1-and-1 FT (0 pts)
  • 10:13 - Marcus Morris jumper (2 pts)
  • 9:41 - Tyrel Reed 3-pointer (3 pts)
  • 9:11 - Marcus Morris free throws (2 pts)
  • 8:49 - Two missed layups, two offensive rebounds, Marcus Morris free throw (1 pt)
  • 8:06 - Travis Releford jumper (2 pts) 85-69

That's 39 points in 19 possessions, or 2.05 points per possession.  Mizzou scored a robust 25 points in those same 19 possessions (1.32 per possession, or what they average when they're drubbing cupcake teams in December), and they saw their deficit rise from two points to 16.  For all intents and purposes, the other 29 minutes of the game were a draw.  But when your opponent is scoring on 17 of 19 possessions, you are going to lose. When that opponent is a top five team on their home court, you're going to lose big.

When I was watching the game live during this stretch, I was grieving about Missouri's lack of perimeter defense; and to be sure, it left something to be desired for the game (in all, this was another nice lesson for Phil Pressey and company regarding the difference between going for steals and playing strong man-on-man defense).  But really, this was the perfect inside-out strategy from the Jayhawks.  The first five possessions in this string consisted of layups, short jumpers and offensive rebounds.  Then Marcus Morris got an assist on the Taylor 3-pointer.  Then Robinson scored four straight points before the silly 3's from Little and Releford.  Ten of the first 11 possessions in this string were completely interior-based before the perimeter became a true factor.

Knowing Mizzou was up for this game, and knowing that Laurence Bowers and Ricardo Ratliffe were playing well, they almost immediately got both of them in foul trouble to start the second half, then went to town.  It was clinical.  It's annoying watching Kansas score 67 points in 45 minutes against Michigan and barely escape USC and UCLA, then play like this against Mizzou, but ... well, it's a rivalry game.  We should expect no less.  In terms of recruiting and star ratings, few teams in the country are more talented than Kansas, and their A-game is pretty staggering.

Despite the fact that Kansas put Mizzou away with the Morris twins asserting their will, I maintain that it was good for Kansas that Josh Selby didn't play.  They had some incredible ball movement in the first half, and I don't think it would have been as good with Selby.  He's clearly talented, and on the road Kansas might need his versatility; at home, however, they do just fine with ball movement and role players.

The Good News?

As good as Mizzou's offense was, they only averaged 0.08 points per possession over their season average.  Kansas averaged 0.29 per possession over theirs.  In front of a Mizzou Arena crowd in another month, a fired up Mizzou team can, and should, keep things much, much closer.

Asserting Your Will on the Glass

I was extremely impressed with Missouri's work on the boards in the game's first 15 minutes or so.  Twenty-five minutes later, Kansas was +8 in terms of expected rebounds.  Mizzou lost a step in terms of intensity (I think they wore out), then Bowers/Ratliffe got in foul trouble, then the rebounds all went to Kansas.  In those 19 possessions above, KU grabbed five offensive rebounds to Mizzou's two defensive rebounds.  It went to hell on a stick awfully quickly.

Mizzou Player Stats

(Definitions at the bottom of the post.)

AdjGS GmSc/Min Line
Phil Pressey 20.5 0.68 30 Min, 17 Pts (6-8 FG, 4-5 3PT, 1-2 FT), 6 Ast, 5 PF
Laurence Bowers 20.2 0.75 27 Min, 19 Pts (8-11 FG, 3-4 FT), 5 Reb, 2 Stl, 2 TO, 5 PF
Ricardo Ratliffe 16.1 0.95 17 Min, 12 Pts (5-5 FG, 2-2 3PT), 3 Reb (2 Off), 2 Blk, 5 PF
Matt Pressey 12.5 0.50 25 Min, 11 Pts (3-7 FG, 0-2 3PT, 5-5 FT), 4 Reb (2 Off), 2 Ast
Marcus Denmon 10.0 0.33 30 Min, 11 Pts (4-7 FG, 1-4 3PT, 2-2 FT), 3 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 TO
Justin Safford 3.7 0.28 13 Min, 5 Pts (1-5 FG, 0-3 3PT, 3-4 FT), 5 Reb, 2 Stl, 2 TO, 5 PF
Kim English 2.0 0.14 14 Min, 6 Pts (1-6 FG, 0-1 3PT, 4-4 FT), 2 TO
Mike Dixon 2.0 0.15 13 Min, 5 Pts (2-7 FG, 1-2 3PT), 2 Ast
Steve Moore 1.4 0.08 17 Min, 0 Pts (0-1 FT), 3 Reb
Ricky Kreklow -3.3 -0.23 14 Min, 0 Pts (0-2 3PT)

Well, "Young Pressey"...'ve won over Brent Musberger and Bob Knight.  Congrats.  Your man-to-man defense still leaves something to be desired (it's all or nothing -- steals or an open 3-pointer), but you had no idea you were supposed to be cowed in the confines of Allen Fieldhouse.  Have I mentioned how fun the next few years could be?

That Might Have Been...

...the best overall offensive performance I've seen from Laurence Bowers.  He got shots off around the rim against the Morrises, and he made a series of very pretty mid-range jumpers.  He's not going to shoot 8-for-11 every night, but if he can bring that array of skills to the table consistently, then Mizzou is a much, much better offensive team.  (And they were already a pretty good offensive team.)

Good and Bad

Ricardo Ratliffe's skill set is very well-defined at this point, aren't they?  Good: a set of post moves growing in diversity and effectiveness.  Bad: couldn't draw fouls to save his life.  Good: an improving jumper.  Bad: somewhat nonexistent on the defensive glass.  Good: solid body-on-body post defense.  Bad: guaranteed bad foul after giving up an offensive rebound.

Make no mistake ... I love having him on this team.  Love it.  And I really love that he actually shows up on the road almost every time (unlike another Mizzou player from the eastern time zone whose name I won't mention right now).  But it is difficult to get a more clear read of somebody's skill set than what we have with 'Cardo right now.

He Must Have Had This Line Saved Up for a While...

Last night during the game, Doug Gottlieb posted the following on Twitter:

Matt Pressey is one of those guys you hate to play with at the y, he is not terrible, but he shoots as if he is awesome.

Matt Pressey against Kansas: seven field goal attempts in 25 minutes.  Eleven points in seven shots.  Gottlieb pretty clearly came up with this line a while back and had been waiting for a chance to use it, but ... it was pretty dickish and ill-timed.  I was very frustrated with Big Pressey's early-season shot selection, but it's not early-season anymore.  I've been impressed with his shot selection for a good, solid month now.

Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %T/O
Phil Pressey 17% 68% 4.5 77% 17% 4% 2%
Laurence Bowers 29% 56% 2.4 26% 50% 15% 9%
Ricardo Ratliffe 16% 100% 1.9 54% 46% 0% 0%
Matt Pressey 19% 49% 2.7 51% 31% 18% 0%
Marcus Denmon 17% 46% 2.2 53% 31% 7% 9%
Justin Safford 27% 32% 3.2 42% 35% 23% 0%
Kim English 37% 25% 2.3 0% 53% 29% 18%
Mike Dixon 28% 33% 4.2 63% 37% 0% 0%
Steve Moore 1% 48% 1.1 88% 0% 12% 0%
Ricky Kreklow 11% 0% 0.6 0% 67% 0% 33%
  • Excellent passing numbers.  Seven of ten players averaged 40% pass or better, and that made such a huge difference, especially in the first half.  In the second half, as Mizzou was losing ground in a hurry, it became more of a 3-point shooting contest, but I'm okay with that -- what else were they supposed to be doing at that point?
  • Very good fouls numbers too.  Obviously it didn't matter last night, but if Mizzou attacks and draws contact in the future like they did in Lawrence, they'll win a couple of road games.

Three Keys Revisited

From yesterday's preview.

Risk a Blowout

There are two ways Missouri could get blown out tonight: 1) They could attempt to play their game and get eaten alive on the glass and in transition, or 2) They could overcompensate for Kansas' strengths and neutralize their own, finding themselves in a halfcourt game and shooting 30% until KU eventually pulls away.  Give me (1).  Kansas is a strong transition team, but Mizzou absolutely must push the tempo if they stand any chance whatsoever.  If that means sacrificing a few rebounds in the name of long outlet passes, or taking a few quick 3's, or allowing a few dunks because Kansas broke the press, then fine.  Playing faster, and faster, and faster is the only way Mizzou has any chance, and if it means their odds of losing by 25 (instead of, say, 15) are higher, then so be it.  Do your best to swarmswarmswarmswarmswarm.

Mizzou absolutely played the game they needed to play, and I commend them for that.  The defense just wasn't up to snuff, but they played at the pace required of them to win.  They pushed the tempo wherever possible, but once their inside presence disappeared, they had no chance.  I always talk about body blows when describing Mizzou's style, but Kansas landed far too many body blows for Mizzou to be effective last night.  Mizzou became jelly-legged and lost, but I applaud both the effort and the game plan.

The Bench

Mizzou's Bench: 71 minutes, 16 points (4-20 FG, 1-8 3PT, 7-9 FT), 5 Reb (0 Off), 4 Ast, 3 TO, 2 Stl, 5.8 AdjGS Pts (0.08/min).

Turrible.  In a game in which Kansas' No. 8 and No. 9 players scored 27 points and grabbed six rebounds by themselves, this isn't going to cut it.

Kim English

Kim English: 14 minutes, 6 points (1-6 FG), 1 rebound, 1 steal, 2 turnovers.

At home in Big 12 play, English is averaging 11.3 AdjGS/game and 0.48/minute.  On the road: 3.5/game, 0.14/minute.  One person (a team leader, no less) playing 7.8 points worse on the road.  I'm growing extremely bitter about this right now, so I'm just going to move on before I say something overly bitchy.  Clearly he is not responsible for Mizzou's defensive regression on the road, and clearly nobody in the world yearns and tries to succeed more than No. 24; but ... we could use those eight extra points on the road, Kim.  All I'm going to say.

(And while we're at it, Mike Dixon, we could use the extra 4.8 points you lack on the road as well -- 10.2 AdjGS/game at home, 5.4 on the road.)


We've taken our medicine, and now it's time to move on to the most important set of games the season has to offer.  Mizzou's next four games: Oklahoma, Texas Tech, at Iowa State, Baylor.  We know how difficult Hilton Coliseum can be at times, but if Mizzou wants a good seed in the NCAA Tournament, they really, really need to go 4-0 in this stretch.  We've seen glimpses of everything we need to see -- significant improvement from both Presseys, initiation of more contact, a pretty jumper from Bowers, steady play from Ratliffe, good play at home from Dixon and English (hey, three of the next four are at home) ... now we just need to see the correct results.  This season may be somewhat disappointing, but Mizzou still has a chance to move to 22-6 over the next two weeks.  I'll take that.



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.