Basketball is a bit of a weird game sometimes.
Green Bay came out from the tip and did something we hadn’t really seen a Mizzou opponent do to this point... they made shots. The Phoenix hit five of their first seven and seven out of their first 10 shots, including three 3-pointers. That start was the punch in the mouth the Tigers kind of needed considering how well things have gone for them so far this season.
The good news is there was no flinch or sign of panic from the home team and boy did the offense answer the bell. Staring down a 13-4 deficit, Mizzou would go on to outscore Green Bay 56-27 the rest of the first half en route to scoring 100 for the game in their 100-77 win.
Giving up 77 points on defense in a 72 possession game isn’t anything to get too excited about, but a 1.370 points per possession on offense is what we call in the business “good offense”.
1. When Geist goes for 28...
I can tell you there won’t be very many nights when Jordan Geist drops 28 points in. For the rest of the season there won’t be many nights or possibly ANY nights where a Tiger goes for 28 points. They’ve got some talented guys but this was the perfect mix of opponent and Geist pounced.
Of all the surprises we’ve had this season, you can count Geist in the batch of good ones. He hasn’t been the most consistent of players but he’s certainly a guy who has provided a boost at some important times. As Mizzou nurses the progress of Freshman Point Guard Blake Harris, Geist’s play has been something the staff have turned to repeatedly. For better or worse. And most of the time it’s been better.
After shooting just 28.6% from behind the arc last year, Geist has hit 13 for 25, which is good for 57th in the country right now (games against D2 opponents are not counted in KenPom rankings — technically Geist is 13/27 for 48.1%). Obviously the expectation isn’t that Geist finishes the season shooting at that high of a mark, but he’s largely taking smart unguarded shots. If he keeps that up he’ll be a solid and effective weapon off the bench.
2. 24/19/6 in 50 minutes
Jeremiah Tilmon had a double-double, and oh, by the way, Jontay Porter also went for 12&8 to go with him. The freshmen bigs are an important reason why this season and future of the program are so bright, and Saturday night proved their production is catching up with the preseason hype.
Jeremiah Tilmon is learning to stay on the floor and now he’s starting to learn to still play aggressively without fouling. There are parts of the game every big man must learn and he’s getting the idea. Early in the season Tilmon’s fouls committed per 40 minutes was in the low teens, it’s currently at 7.0. That number isn’t great but even if it remains steady it means you can likely get 20-25 minutes out of Tilmon, and I think Cuonzo Martin and staff would take 20-25 minutes of Tilmon on the floor. Most bigs don’t play a whole lot more than 25 mpg anyway.
Meanwhile Porter wasn’t great from the floor and can certainly improve in that area, but it’ll come. He was only 3-7 from the floor, and has missed eight of his last 10 three’s but he’s still doing everything else. Jontay is the quintessential skilled big for any offense in that he can do it all. He’s a freshman and he’s got an ORtg of 113.3, he’s in the top 100 in Defensive Rebounding percentage, has an 18% assist rate (currently 4th on the team behind Phillips, Harris and Geist), he’s hitting 87% of his FTs, and nearly 60% from 2FG. At 34.5% from 3FG he’s also doing pretty well. But even his assist total seems low because the ball moves from his hands quickly, which makes the Missouri offense better.
Overall, I’m not sure how you could be happier with the two freshmen bigs.
3. [insert name here] picks up the slack
For the most part we know who the “guys” are on this team. We know the rotation and what they need to get from each guy in their role. But... it sort of feels like when a guy has an off night, his teammates pick him up.
Tilmon didn’t have much of an impact in the Advocare Invitational, but Jontay Porter was All Tournament.
Kassius Robertson struggled to make shots for most of the night against Green Bay, but Jordan Geist dropped a handy 28 including 5-8 from three.
Kevin Puryear had a tough night against Green Bay and got picked up by Geist, Jordan Barnett and the freshmen bigs, but it was Puryear who picked everyone up against Miami of Ohio with his best game of the year from an efficiency standpoint.
Even Reed Nikko picked up Jeremiah Tilmon against Wagner.
All season long this team has found answers (well, maybe not against Utah) and they’ve largely come from different sources. Each guy on the roster has had his moment. Cullen VanLeer against Long Beach State, Terrence Phillips against UCF, Blake Harris played his best floor game against Green Bay.
They are missing the star and Michael Porter Jr isn’t coming back anytime soon. But without him each player has had a chance to tell the staff they’ll be okay without him. This is probably the most encouraging part of the season so far.
The team Cuonzo Martin has is a balanced team with limitations. They’re starting to understand them and in doing so, they’ve found ways to offset their limitations. That’s the sign of a good, smart, and well coached team.
We have to talk about the walk-ons. This is great... watch Cuonzo.
Cuonzo’s emoji game is on point.