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Missouri’s offense is improving, and its defense has fallen apart

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NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Your Trifecta: Barnett-Geist-Puryear.

Fix one leak, and another one springs open. After a mostly dreadful stretch of offensive play, Mizzou has averaged at least 0.99 points per possession in four of its last five games; that’s not particularly good, but it’s better. On Wednesday night, Mizzou averaged 1.16 points per possession, its best offensive performance since the Miami (Ohio) game, a.k.a. its last win.

Mizzou still lost by 15 points, however, because holy smokes, has the Tigers’ defense fallen off a cliff.

Here’s what happens when you click the Conference Only box at Ken Pomeroy’s Mizzou profile:

Mizzou in SEC play
kenpom.com

In conference play, Missouri has still had the worst offense in the conference, even if those shooting percentages are improving a decent amount. But the defense has fallen apart. The only thing keeping Mizzou at 10th in defensive efficiency is impressive defensive rebounding, decent ball theft, and sending the right guys to the free throw line. The Tigers have the second-lowest 2PT% and are allowing the second-highest 2PT%. They have the third-lowest 3PT% and are allowing the third-highest 3PT%. They are giving up the most blocked shots and blocking the fewest.

We knew this team was lacking in the size and athleticism departments, and the difference has been stark in conference play.

Mizzou averaged 1.16 points per possession last night and lost by 15 ... because Mississippi State averaged 1.39 points per possession.

Mississippi State ranks 350th in Pomeroy’s Experience measure, by the way ... 13 spots lower than Missouri.

Guh.

Mississippi State 89, Missouri 74

Mizzou Miss. St.
Pace (No. of Possessions) 64
Points Per Possession (PPP) 1.16 1.39
Points Per Shot (PPS) 1.37 1.59
2-PT FG% 54.5% 60.6%
3-PT FG% 33.3% 52.2%
FT% 73.9% 52.0%
True Shooting % 57.7% 66.4%
FTA/FGA 42.6% 44.6%
Mizzou Miss. St.
Assists 10 16
Steals 1 4
Turnovers 10 7
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.10 2.86
Mizzou Miss. St.
Expected Offensive Rebounds 11.1 10.5
Offensive Rebounds 11 9
Difference -0.1 -1.5

MSU shot 64% in the second half — 63% on 2-pointers and 67% on 3-pointers. But ball handling might have been an even more crippling issue. Mizzou gave up 16 assists and managed just a single steal. The Tigers’ 10 turnovers weren’t egregious, but ... it’s pretty egregious when you’re only forcing seven of your own.

Quinndary Weatherspoon (sophomore) and Lamar Peters (freshman), by the way: 52 points in 52 minutes, with six assists, three steals, and three turnovers. Not bad.

Mizzou Player Stats

Player AdjGS GmSc/Min Line
Jordan Barnett 23.3 0.73 32 Min, 18 Pts (7-12 FG, 2-6 3PT, 2-2 FT), 8 Reb (3 Off), 3 PF
Jordan Geist 18.4 0.71 26 Min, 18 Pts (6-13 FG, 1-3 3PT, 5-6 FT), 4 Reb, 1 Stl, 1 TO, 1 PF
Kevin Puryear 15.6 0.42 37 Min, 13 Pts (3-9 FG, 0-3 3PT, 7-8 FT), 7 Reb (4 Off), 1 Ast, 2 TO
Cullen VanLeer 12.0 0.43 28 Min, 9 Pts (3-4 FG, 3-4 3PT), 1 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 PF
Terrence Phillips 6.9 0.25 28 Min, 9 Pts (3-6 FG, 1-4 3PT, 2-2 FT), 2 Reb, 4 Ast, 3 TO, 5 PF
Frankie Hughes 1.3 0.10 13 Min, 4 Pts (2-5 FG, 0-1 3PT), 3 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 TO, 2 PF
Reed Nikko 0.8 0.07 11 Min, 2 Pts (1-3 FG), 2 Reb (2 Off), 3 PF
Russell Woods -1.9 -0.16 12 Min, 0 Pts (0-0 FG, 0-3 FT), 3 Reb (1 Off), 1 Ast, 5 PF
K.J. Walton -2.8 -0.22 13 Min, 1 Pts (0-2 FG, 1-2 FT), 1 Reb (1 Off), 1 Ast, 2 TO, 1 PF
Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
Poss.
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %T/O
Jordan Barnett 22% 55% 1.4 0% 88% 12% 0%
Jordan Geist 35% 42% 2.3 0% 69% 26% 5%
Kevin Puryear 21% 37% 2.0 25% 38% 28% 9%
Cullen VanLeer 8% 75% 1.1 60% 40% 0% 0%
Terrence Phillips 19% 43% 3.9 69% 18% 5% 9%
Frankie Hughes 29% 34% 4.6 63% 27% 0% 11%
Reed Nikko 15% 30% 0.9 0% 100% 0% 0%
Russell Woods 6% 24% 2.2 70% 0% 30% 0%
K.J. Walton 20% 15% 2.8 51% 17% 14% 17%
  • That’s definitely not the kind of response you want to see from Russell Woods after Saturday’s free throw shooting debacle. Against Ole Miss, Woods scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds but suffered some crippling free throw misses. Last night, he grabbed just three rebounds, took zero shots from the field, and went 0-for-3 from the line. Oy.
  • KJ Walton’s last 3 games: 44 minutes, 3 points (1-for-9 FG, 1-2 FT), 3 assists, 3 TO. That’s not a happy trend either.
  • A happier trend: After averaging just 7 PPG on 31% FG shooting in his first three SEC games, Kevin Puryear has averaged 13.5 PPG on 53% shooting in the last four.
  • If I recall correctly, I was hoping for something in the neighborhood of 12 PPG for Jordan Barnett. He scored just seven combined points in his first two games, but since then: 14.8 PPG. And Mizzou has yet to win a game in which he played. That’s unfair.

The train rolls on. Mizzou hosts South Carolina on Saturday, and while the Tigers have played Frank Martin’s Gamecocks pretty well — going 1-3 in two years with three single-digit losses qualifies as “pretty well” by Mizzou’s current standards — this is also Martin’s best Gamecocks team.

11 games left. 12 counting the SEC Tournament.