Sam's out on vacation so he asked me to step in with tonight's post game recap. Missouri had their chances and led Tennessee by 1 with 5 minutes to go and then couldn't close out.
The first half was, well not good. Neither team could do much on the offensive end with Mizzou settling for jumpers, many from deep that just weren't falling. Mizzou was stifled by Tennessee's zone and seemingly couldn't get the ball down low to JW3 or Post, an area where Mizzou seemed to have an advantage going into the game. Luckily for Mizzou (who shot in the low 20s in the first half), Tennessee was equally unable to do anything on the offensive end.
After Mizzou had started to get some good momentum going towards the end of the first half, the Tigers came out at the start of the second half cold and continued to take outside shots and not go down low; but then Isabell got in the game who according to Anderson was sat in the first half because his effort in practice wasn't what he wanted from him this week. Isabell sparked the Tigers with two made three pointers and a nice bank shot and kept the team in the game, giving Mizzou some needed energy and life. But with all good things that a team of freshman can bring, they also bring the inexperience and this was most evident when playing through Tennessee's press once Missouri took a one point lead with around 5 minutes left.
Stop me if you've heard this, but with a team dominated by freshman and sophomores, this is going to happen. Over those final 5 minutes Tennessee's pressing defense was able to rattle Tramaine Isabell into two turnovers on Mizzou's side of the court. Mizzou was then beat on an inbounds pass that resulted in a dunk for Tennessee and outside of a Namon Wright three, Mizzou was not able to close out.
Let's look at Sam's three keys and see how Mizzou handled them:
1) Josh Richardson
Mizzou actually did a very good job on the offensive end of the floor only allowing Richardson to score 8 points on 2 of 9 shooting. However, Richardson had two big blocks on successive Mizzou possessions that could have ignited the fans in the arena and given the Tigers some much needed momentum in the first half. While Josh Richardson didn't kill Mizzou, Armani Cooper did. Cooper had 15 points, 11 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. Mizzou had no answer for Cooper.
2) Take Care of the Ball
Plainly speaking, Mizzou did not take care of the ball well, turning the ball over 14 times, two in back to back possessions in the final five minutes of the game when Tennessee took control. The turnovers Mizzou was guilty of was typical of what we expect to see from freshman and sophomores, loss of concentration, a ball off the knee when driving or an errant pass. The only way Mizzou gets over this is through playing together and frankly seeing more teams that are going to challenge them and they can play through it.
3) Control The Defensive Glass
They say rebounding is all effort, and in this case, Mizzou's effort wasn't enough as they were outrebounded 37 - 33, and defensively 26 - 21. Mizzou was the bigger team tonight but it's bigs couldn't take advantage of the size advantage they had. JW3 and Post combined for 10 total rebounds and couldn't exert themselves on the Vols in the paint.
All in all this game felt like a big missed opportunity to get a big home win over a top team in the SEC, and unfortunately Mizzou was undone by the things we've seen so far this season. Teki Gill-Caeser did come back but was ineffective in the minutes and Deuce Bello who was cleared before the game by Kim Anderson didn't see the floor.
Mizzou now sits at 7-10 (1-3 in the SEC) and heads on the road to College Station to take on the Aggies who themselves went on the road and beat LSU earlier today and then face a better version of Tennessee in Arkansas next Saturday. Hopefully Mizzou can use the next few days to continue to work and get better.