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Study Hall: Texas A&M 70, Missouri 68

Universal coaching decisions, runs by the home team, and optional defense.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Your Trifecta: Oriakhi-Bell-Brown. Your winner: nobody. Which is true. Nobody Mizzou-related won last night.

Really tired of writing post-loss study halls. Can I have at least a week off from them, guys?

Actually, let's just start with one of yesterday's keys to the game:

Full team = Full ability to avoid the slump

As incredible as this sounds, this is Mizzou's first road game with a full-strength squad. The Tigers were missing Tony Criswell against UCLA, Laurence Bowers against Ole Miss and Florida and Keion Bell against LSU. Though they are not enormous contributors, Mizzou could possibly have won both the UCLA and LSU games with Criswell and Bell. You think that may have changed the outlook of the season a bit? 18-3 (6-2 in conference) sounds a hell of a lot better than 16-5 (5-3).

Ole Miss started the game up 19-6, then locked the game down with a 9-0 run in the second half (the rest of the game: Mizzou 43, Ole Miss 36). Florida began the game up 15-2, then locked the game down with a 10-2 run in the second half (the rest of the game: Florida 58, Mizzou 48). LSU went on an early 11-0 run, then boosted a shrinking lead with a quick 7-0 run in the second half (the rest of the game: Mizzou 70, LSU 55). With a healthy starting lineup and a full bench, the Tigers have no excuse for the type of lapses that have murdered them recently. They simply cannot let it happen again ... and they especially can't let it happen twice a game.

From 17:58 to 13:16, first half: Texas A&M 15, Mizzou 4
From 10:37 to 7:20, first half: Texas A&M 11, Mizzou 2
From 18:34 to 17:48, second half: Texas A&M 8, Mizzou 0

Three runs, eight minutes, 45 seconds ... A&M 34, Mizzou 6. In a two-point Mizzou loss. You expect a home team to make a run. That's just something that happens. But if Mizzou had been able to stop just one of these three, the Tigers win.

Actually, I guess you could make the case that Mizzou wasn't really full-strength, since Laurence Bowers spent 28 minutes on the bench. Hey, speaking of which...

Things All Basketball Coaches Do That Drive Me Insane

Laurence Bowers played five minutes in the first half, committed two fouls, and sat for the rest of the first half. He committed his third foul 90 seconds into the second half, played for the next three minutes, then sat again until six minutes remained in the game.

For the season, Bowers has been incredibly foul-proof, committing one every 14.3 minutes. He had some bad luck last night and got called for three in 12 ... but he sat for 28 minutes for fear of him drawing two more. That's insane. And I can't call Frank Haith out about it because every basketball coach in the world does this.

When you're losing on the road, saving your best player for the stretch run doesn't necessarily matter. There's not going to be a stretch run unless your best players can dig you out of your hole. Last night, Mizzou actually got a bit lucky in this regard; the rest of the team stepped up and made an 11-4 run in his absence. And really, Bowers couldn't stop Mizzou from being outscored, 26-12, in his first combined 11 minutes on the court. (Plus, his presence in the stretch run didn't prevent Mizzou from losing either.)

So there's no saying Mizzou would have done any better had Haith not benched him for so long. But the philosophy of this is what bugs me. You're afraid your best player is going to have to sit out key minutes because he's fouled out, so you prevent him from fouling out by ... sitting him for key minutes. It doesn't matter whether those "key minutes" are at the very end or in the middle. They're all key minutes, and Laurence Bowers played 12 minutes last night because of the fear of him fouling out and, perhaps, playing as few as 15-18 minutes. Hate it.

Things Good Coaches Do That I Both Admire And Hate

Frank Haith treats his team like it's a bunch of adults. He's preparing his team to be adults come March. He doesn't call timeouts, he doesn't start Corey Haith when it's time to send a message, and in the home stretch he puts the ball in the hands of the player most capable of carrying Mizzou through a fun run through March: Phil Pressey. I understand why he does it, and for the most part, I'm okay with that approach. Haith is not particularly unique in this regard, and carrying himself like this shows that he thinks this team is capable of making a March run. He doesn't have to micro-manage; for all we know, it might not be in him to do that, anyway. We haven't seen enough of him to know, one way or another.

This approach is admirable ... but it is costing Mizzou severely right now. Assuming the Tigers do indeed make the NCAA Tournament (and at some point, they'll have to win a couple of road games to make sure that happens), they might be pretty well-tested, mature, etc. But with losses to A&M and LSU, spurred in part by a lack of timeouts and some killer Pressey mistakes, Mizzou is paying a serious price for what are basically mid-season learning experiences.

You can't micro-manage your way to an NCAA title. In the end, the players are going to determine how well the players do, so in the end you're going to have to trust them to figure out ways to fight through tough stretches. And if your players can't fight through tough stretches on the road against teams like LSU and Texas A&M, you're not going to win the NCAA title whether you're using all your timeouts or not. But you still want to make the tourney. You still want to avoid something like an 8-seed. Even if you're not capable of winning six games in the tourney, you want to put yourself in a favorable position to win a couple. And a little bit of micro-managing would have gone a long way in the last week or so.

By the way...

...didn't Keion Bell just get MAULED with two seconds left. Like, almost to a "Thomas Robinson throwing Phil Pressey into the stands" level? I'd love to have seen a different camera angle of that; maybe that would change my mind. But we didn't get one. And ... yeah ... I wouldn't have minded a 90% free throw shooter going to the line, down two.

I feel really, really bad for Flip Pressey, by the way.

Obviously his decision-making needs to improve, but ... of all his problems this year, his passing touch doesn't usually abandon him like it did when he airmailed a reasonably simple pass to Keion Bell with 24 seconds left. That wasn't a decision-making issue at all; that was him, in a situation where A&M is probably going to have to foul, trying to get the ball to Mizzou's best free throw shooter. That was exactly the play I wanted him to make. And with his passing ability, it is a pass he probably makes perfectly accurately 99 percent of the time. And he just lost his touch.

Phil Pressey fought through 36 minutes of grinding, iffy, challenging play, and he had played the final four minutes almost perfectly -- two free throws with 3:46 left to get Mizzou within four, a baby jumper with 2:50 left to get within two, a gorgeous runner with 2:19 to tie the game, a perfect pass to Bell for a dunk and another tie with 1:51 left, an assist to Bowers for a 3-pointer and the lead with 53 seconds left -- and his hands abandoned him in a single, devastating instant.

And then, yes, he took an ill-advised 3-pointer on the last possession. I'm not absolving him of all sins here; just one in particular. Though, granted, the miss gave Mizzou a chance at the offensive rebound and get mauled with no call. So there's that, too, I guess.

Bottom line, though: We remember the final possession or two, but here's how I rank the factors that led to this Missouri loss:

1. A&M outscoring the Tigers by a combined 28 points in three separate runs.
2. A&M, a mediocre offensive team, averaging an inexcusable 1.13 points per possession (see below).
3. Laurence Bowers playing only 12 minutes.
4. Flip's late-game mistakes.
5. Bell getting mauled with no call.

If Mizzou cuts off one of three runs, they win even without perfect late-game execution (and again, it's worth repeating that Pressey in particular was mostly perfect from 4:00 to 0:30 left). If Mizzou actually defends well (something it has proven less and less capable of as the season has progressed) and A&M averages only about 1.00 points per possession, Mizzou wins by 6-10. Those are much bigger issues to me, in the end, than Pressey's final 30 seconds.

Texas A&M 70, Mizzou 68

Pace (No. of Possessions) 62.0
Points Per Possession (PPP) 1.10 1.13
Points Per Shot (PPS) 1.48 1.25
2-PT FG% 50.0% 50.0%
3-PT FG% 33.3% 50.0%
FT% 91.7% 66.7%
True Shooting % 60.1% 57.1%
Mizzou Opp.
Assists 10 17
Steals 5 7
Turnovers 16 12
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
0.94 2.00
Mizzou Opp.
Expected Offensive Rebounds 9 11
Offensive Rebounds 10 10
Difference +1 -1

Mizzou shoots well, makes its free throws, wins the rebounding battle, averages a super-healthy 1.10 points per possession...

...and loses. Really, I wish there was a more defined pattern to these losses, like "Mizzou can't hit the broad side of a barn, the end." But in both the A&M and LSU games, it came down to runs as much as anything. The full-game stats really didn't look bad for the Missouri offense, even though watching the 40 minutes play out was maddening with the ups and downs.

Mizzou Player Stats

(Definitions at the bottom of the post.)

AdjGS GmSc/Min Line
Alex Oriakhi 23.0 0.92 25 Min, 15 Pts (5-8 FG, 5-6 FT), 8 Reb (4 Off), 3 Blk, 4 PF
Keion Bell 14.9 0.43 35 Min, 12 Pts (3-10 FG, 0-1 3PT, 6-6 FT), 5 Reb (2 Off), 2 Ast, 2 Stl
Jabari Brown 13.0 0.37 35 Min, 11 Pts (2-4 FG, 1-2 3PT, 6-6 FT), 2 Reb, 2 Ast
Earnest Ross 5.0 0.21 24 Min, 8 Pts (3-7 FG, 2-5 3PT), 2 TO
Tony Criswell 3.8 0.14 27 Min, 2 Pts (1-2 FG), 7 Reb
Laurence Bowers 3.5 0.30 12 Min, 7 Pts (3-4 FG, 1-2 3PT), 2 TO
Phil Pressey 3.0 0.08 36 Min, 13 Pts (4-11 FG, 0-2 3PT, 5-6 FT), 4 Ast, 2 Reb, 7 TO
Negus Webster-Chan 0.0 0.00 1 Min
Ryan Rosburg -0.4 -0.09 5 Min
Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %T/O
Oriakhi 26% 52% 2.4 32% 43% 20% 5%
Bell 21% 38% 2.5 44% 38% 14% 4%
Brown 12% 50% 1.9 57% 19% 18% 5%
Ross 21% 33% 2.0 40% 47% 0% 13%
Criswell 6% 29% 0.4 0% 67% 0% 33%
Bowers 28% 45% 1.6 0% 67% 0% 33%
Pressey 32% 31% 4.1 52% 24% 8% 15%
Rosburg 11% 0% 0.7 0% 0% 0% 100%
  • Every time I see Flip Pressey struggling through a game, committing turnovers, making iffy decisions, and still playing 36 minutes, all I can think is ... you're such an idiot, Mike Dixon.
  • I loved, loved to see Missouri attacking the rim with Oriakhi, Bell and Brown. That is the way forward for this team. Well ... as long as the defense can avoid total incompetence, anyway. That's ... kind of a problem at the moment.

The Other Two Keys Revisited

From yesterday's preview.


Looking at A&M's defensive stats and knowing Missouri's tendencies, it is pretty likely that Mizzou will end up taking 20-25 3-pointers in this game. They will be open enough to take, and lord knows this team is willing to take them. So ... uh ... make them. Mizzou's 3-point percentage has been hilariously variant in SEC play. The Tigers made 60% against Alabama, 11% against Ole Miss, 41% against Georgia, 22% against Florida and South Carolina, 52% against Vanderbilt, 28% against LSU and 38% against Auburn. Reach that 38% mark, and you'll probably win.

(Looking at you, Earnest Ross. You're allowed to make them on the road, too.)

I was underestimating this offense, apparently. Mizzou only took 12 3-pointers all game and found quite a bit of success attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line. The Tigers only made 33% of the 3's they did take, and making one more would have made a hell of a difference, obviously, but this didn't end up being that much of a factor.

Dip into that bench

A&M's bench is pretty dreadful. With players like Ray Turner and Alex Caruso more than willing to get into foul trouble, and with A&M content to play at a snail's crawl, it would benefit Missouri greatly to attack these players, pick up the pace, get Turner and/or Caruso into foul trouble, and force Billy Kennedy to go to his bench more than he cares to. If R. Turner and Caruso are each allowed to cross the 25-minute mark, A&M is a much, much better team.

(Meanwhile, it would be fantastic if Alex Oriakhi were to not get into foul trouble on the road for once.)

Ray Turner: 28 minutes, four fouls.
Alex Caruso: 23 minutes, two fouls.

So basically, the two were allowed to play an average of about 25 minutes each. We'll call this one a push.


You're going to have to win one of these at some point, Mizzou.

(Oh yeah, and you probably shouldn't lose to Ole Miss tomorrow.)


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 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.