Well that was a dose of ice cold water down your back wasn’t it?
Mizzou went on the road to Utah and did all they could to shoot themselves out of the game early en route to a somewhat embarrassing 77-59 loss to the Utes last night. The score isn’t super indicative of how this game went, perhaps a gif will better explain it.
It was basically a big slow fall to the ground.
1. When you shoot it bad, you look bad
In general, shooting the ball poorly is not what I would call advisable when on the road. Mizzou shot 19 percent for the game from 3-point range, and that was an improvement when you consider the one-for-13 they shot in the first half. Seriously, 1-for-13 is eight percent. I’m pretty sure I can shoot better than that left handed. If it weren’t for the free throw line in the first half, this would’ve been even worse. The Tigers scored 19 first half points, and eight of those game from the foul line.
The Tigers played a little out of their minds on offense in their first two games. Their effective FG% was second nationally, so you had to expect that to come down a bit in the coming games. It all came crashing down in one game as they regressed to the mean in a hard and swift thud.
They’re still 31st in eFG%, but that’s a long way down from second. Utah was the first team to show up to the gym with some size and challenge what had been Mizzou’s biggest strength so far this season.
The second half wasn’t great, but you can live with 48 percent overall from the field. The Tigers have enough good shooters that you can see this performance from outside as an aberration instead of the expectation. Pre-Utah the Tigers were hitting on 49% of their 3-point attempts and now they’re at 38%.
To give you an idea of what shooting percentages mean, if Mizzou had shot about their current season percentage from 3-point range, they’d have lost this game by six points. Which would’ve sucked, but I think we’d have been okay with a 77-71 loss on the road to a potential NCAA bubble team.
2. Freshman bigs foul too much
Jeremiah Tilmon is a tremendous talent, but since he played largely foul free and imposed his will on Iowa State, he’s played 16 minutes and fouled 10 times. His fouls committed per 40 is an astonishing 12.7. When Tilmon plays he’s as productive as any player in the country. He rebounds, contests shots and scores around the rim. But you have to be on the floor.
Jontay Porter fouls a lot less but is still prone to a questionable decision here and there and ended up on the bench in the first half as well. Reed Nikko filled in well for Porter and Tilmon, but the talent level drops off when he comes in. His hands and preparedness to receive passes isn’t as good, and while he rebounds just as well as either freshman, he just isn’t the same threat offensively.
So Cuonzo has to figure out how to keep Jontay and Tilmon out of foul trouble. It’s not easy because freshman bigs foul too much. But one way I think it could help is if they played a bit more zone.
3. Don’t Panic
Missouri isn’t the first team, nor will they be the last, to have a poor shooting night and lose a game on the road. Particularly an NCAA bubble team, which the Tigers are.
With Michael Porter Jr., the Tigers can be more than a bubble team. You look at guys like Jordan Barnett, Kevin Puryear, Kassius Robertson, Jeremiah Tilmon and Jontay Porter ... all good players. But an elite player like Porter is what makes this team special. When he comes back, he pushes everyone else down a rung on the ladder and takes pressure off them to make plays.
Mizzou’s season won’t be defined by one night in Salt Lake City or this Monday’s game against Emporia State. Mizzou’s season will be defined by their performance in Orlando and in SEC Conference play. Utah is a good enough team, and one that will get plenty of wins in Pac-12 play against good opponents, that this won’t end up being a bad loss. But the future for this team is still very much ahead of it. There were bound to be bumps along the road.
Enjoying all the hot takes based upon one road game in November— Sam Snelling (@SamTSnelling) November 17, 2017
I said this because Twitter is a reactionary place. And the amount of despair I was reading from Mizzou people in and out of the media is kind of sad. Cuonzo Martin is not Kim Anderson part 2, and this year’s Tigers are not the same team which took the court last year or the year before.
The reality is Mizzou shot an awful percentage from the floor and when they were taking good shots they weren’t making them. You do that enough, you’ll lose, especially on the road.
The biggest concern I had last night was Cuonzo Martin’s slow plodding pace for much of the game. They ended up at around 68 possessions, which isn’t exactly in the realm we expected when we viewed the Iowa State offense they were implementing. I’d rather they’d picked up the pace a bit more and tried attacking the rim a little more off the bounce instead of tossing the ball into a big to make a move.
Look, things went bad last night. As bad as they can go for a basketball team. But it’s the middle of November, and Mizzou is much more likely to have good games than bad the rest of the way. Let’s give these guys a few more games before we start to bury the season and hopes of the return of Mizzou basketball.
4. Give Utah some credit
Larry Krystkowiak is in year seven at Utah and mainly played seven players, all but one of whom played for him last season. The Utes aren’t exploding with talent, but they’re well coached, and they know what to expect from each other.
In contrast, it’s Cuonzo Martin’s first season, and he played 10 guys. Of those 10 only Jeremiah Tilmon and Cullen VanLeer played less than 15 minutes, and none of them played for Martin last year.
I expect Utah to be a tough out in the Pac-12 and win its fare share of games, possibly enough for a tournament bid. But they’re also much closer to a finished product than what Missouri is. At home, the Tigers are going to be nearly impossible to beat. But that’s expected for teams that are still figuring things out.
Missouri will be fine.