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Study Hall: WVU 83, Missouri 79

The full-game stats look about right. The eyeballs can’t ignore those big runs, though.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at West Virginia Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s funny looking at both the St. John’s and WVU games as products of full-game stats. Against St. John’s, Mizzou went up 37-21, then gave up a 37-13 run, then went on a 40-24 run to win the game. And against WVU, the Tigers went on a 32-16 run to break open a tie game, then proceeded to get outscored, 31-11, to finish the game.

What’s funny, though, is that the full-game stats paint pretty much exactly the picture I’d have expected had you told me that Missouri lost by four points to West Virginia.

Team Stats

I’d have guessed that Mizzou dominated the glass, broke even in the shooting department, and got mauled in ball-handling. Sure enough:

  • True Shooting %: Mizzou 59%, WVU 55%
  • Expected Rebounding Margin: Mizzou +7.7
  • BCI: WVU 2.88, Mizzou 1.10

From that perspective, this game played out in a predictable way. Ball-handling (and perhaps an over-reliance on the volatility of 3-point shooting) will be Missouri’s biggest weakness this year, and ball-handling is everybody’s biggest weakness against WVU. So of course Missouri turned the ball over 20 times.

The fact that a ton of those turnovers came down the stretch, after Mizzou managed to hold the fort pretty well for 30ish minutes, made this loss hard to stomach, of course. A team capable of going up 16 points should be able to resist a 20-point collapse or whatever. But based on expectation, the first 30ish minutes were as unexpected (from a ball-handling perspective) as the last 10. It evened out in the end, albeit in pretty cruel fashion.

Player Stats

Your Trifecta: Barnett-Porter-Puryear.

Good god, do I enjoy Jontay Porter. He’s like everything I hoped Travon Bryant would become. And he’s a freshman who has barely spent time in a college weight room. I loved the player Bryant became by his senior year; Jontay might be as good as Senior Travon already.

Jontay’s current PER is 26.0, better than any Missouri player since Alex Oriakhi’s 28.6 in 2012-13. He could hit a slump or a wall, sure. But his ability to contribute to a box score in about 19 different ways is incredible to witness.

Meanwhile, Jordan Barnett had maybe his most normal game of the season. His offensive rating in every game thus far had been either 85 or below or 136 or higher. On Sunday: 120. His 3-point shot was hit-or-miss, but he was 5-for-9 on 2-pointers and yanked down a ton of boards. Nice game.

The biggest problem with this team right now is that Jordan Geist is being asked to handle the ball a lot. Cuonzo Martin clearly doesn’t trust Blake Harris against high-level defenders just yet — and his six minutes against WVU didn’t assuage any concerns in that regard — and Terrence Phillips still appears pretty foul-prone.

So that leaves Geist and Kassius Robertson to handle a major load. And while Geist only had three turnovers during WVU’s comeback (felt like seven), committing two in 10 seconds was what kick-started the run in the first place.

I knew the result when I began watching this morning — because once again, I’m not staying up past 11 damn pm on a Sunday night — so I was prepared for the onslaught WVU unleashed late in the game. There was no shock or extreme emotion involved.

That allows me to see this game as the encouraging event that it was. Yeah, that would have been a huge win to have for one’s NCAA Tournament résumé. But I can’t say I’m thinking in those terms just yet.

I’m just hoping to see a tourney-caliber team as frequently as possible at the moment. See that enough, and the wins will probably work themselves out, and we saw it three times in Orlando. If Mizzou can beat UCF on Thursday — and if the Tigers play like they just did, that likely won’t be an issue — that would mean the Tigers are probably 10-2 when they head to St. Louis on Christmas Eve Eve. That’ll do. Last night stunk, but since the moment the Michael Porter Jr. news came down, Mizzou has looked great. Hopefully that continues.