There’s a comfort which comes over watching this team play in a game like this. Perhaps it’s the scars of the last three years or more where a simple game against an opponent you should beat gets all kinds of messed up and you end up in a dogfight. After all, it was just last year Mizzou lost to a solid (but not great) team from the Atlantic Sun with a late December loss to Lipscomb.
Aside from their obvious hiccup against Division II Emporia State, Mizzou has done exactly what they should do with their non-conference slate and beaten bad and middling D1 teams by a lot of points.
Perhaps that will give you a sense of calm as they head into what should be a tough matchup against Stephen F. Austin, I know it does for me. The opposition will undoubtedly be tougher in the next two games and the Tigers will have to compensate for it, but Missouri is proving to be a pretty good basketball team.
To the BOX:
Nice night from Jordan Barnett, but overall a really balanced attack. The only Tiger to not score was Terrence Phillips, who got banged up in his first minute on the floor and Mizzou opted to hold him out of the rest of the game. Kevin Puryear struggled a bit, and Robertson wasn’t very efficient, but hitting 10 threes and getting 28 points from the bigs will be enough a lot of nights. We’re really beginning to see what we can expect from this team overall.
1. Jordan Barnett listens to the pod
Congratulations to #Mizzou's @JBounce33 on the third double-double of his career!— Mizzou Basketball (@MizzouHoops) December 17, 2017
Over his last six games: 18.2 PPG and 7.8 RPG #MIZ pic.twitter.com/I4ImqwqWzG
If you are a frequent listener to the Dive Cuts podcast on Rock M Radio, featuring Matt Harris and myself, you would have heard us pleading for Jordan Barnett to be more aggressive in attacking the rim.
I don’t want Barnett to stop shooting threes by any stretch, he’s proven he can make them. He’s a hair shy of 40% on the season, so by all means let them fly. But Barnett is a high level athlete and he proved it against North Florida. I’d be surprised if the coaching staff didn’t approach him in the last few days to request he become a little more aggressive against the Ospreys, because the difference was stark.
When Barnett is running towards the rim on cuts and drives things happen and they’re usually good for the Tigers. He was 6-8 from inside the arc on Saturday night to compliement his 11 rebounds. Overall a very good night for Jordan, and a great night for those of us who are trying to get him to be more aggressive.
Perhaps the biggest recipient of the loss of Michael Porter Jr is Barnett. I kind of thought Kevin Puryear would be the guy but Barnett is playing a very solid 76% of the minutes and his eFG% and and TS% are both over 60% while his share of possessions is slightly down over last season. If Barnett has more games like this, and fewer of the games like he had against Miami where he took nine threes and just two shots inside the arc, Mizzou is going to be a very tough team to beat.
My only request going forward... get to the foul line, young man.
2. A second half switch
Tigers PPP is way down this half, but they’ve taken and made fewer 3’s. There looks to have been a concerted effort to take the ball inside and feed the bigs.— Sam Snelling (@SamTSnelling) December 17, 2017
The pace was high in the first half, on pace for a game in the mid-70s. But with the game well in hand heading into the second half, the Tigers had a bit of a shift in offensive philosophy.
For most of the season to date, this is a jump shooting team which takes a lot of shots from deep. In the first half, the script was more of the same. They capitalized on a fast paced game by getting open shots from three and hitting at 42.9% they jumped to a big lead. In the second half, the Tigers focused more on getting the ball on the interior.
They ended with 14 shots around the basket from Jeremiah Tilmon, Reed Nikko, Kevin Puryear and Jontay Porter. All four contributed, but the star was arguably Nikko who was 5-7 from the floor in the second half including a couple dunks. Tilmon was solid again and Missouri dominated the glass to keep the giant lead right where it was.
Pace is something we’ve talked about a lot as Cuonzo has talked about wanting to pick up the pace, and if you look at KenPom, the Tigers are playing SLOOOOOW (296th in Adj Tempo). I don’t have the exact numbers on a by-half breakdown, but it sure seems like the Tigers do a good job of getting out early and playing with good pace and aggressiveness, and then back off in the second half.
This may be worth exploring in a follow up post, but Cuonzo has changed his offense. Mizzou runs almost exclusively non-traditional pro-style half court offense and their spacing has been great with a 4-out-1-in setups almost exclusively. Adjusted Tempo tends to be an average of the games played and Mizzou right now is being weight down by the 58 possession contest against UCF, but it does seem like they’re able and willing to ratchet up the pace when it calls for it.
3. The scoring will come, Jontay
Jontay Porter is so good you almost don’t realize it, in 16 minutes he has 8 rebounds and 4 assists.— Sam Snelling (@SamTSnelling) December 17, 2017
- Final Line: 22 minutes, 6 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal
Jontay was just 2-6 from the floor, and he continues to struggle with his three point shot, hitting just two of his last 12. But the offense is something I’m not very worried about because he shows these flashes and moves which are mostly reactionary and instinctual and with more work he’ll start making the shots.
What Jontay does for this team is so valuable right now because he literally does everything else when he’s not scoring. Even when he’s not blocking shots he’s influencing and affecting them around the basket.
Right now Jontay is one of the best passers into the post, he’s the best shot blocker, and oh, by the way, he’s the teams leading rebounder.
Really, he’s not always perfect on offense, but you’re watching a kid who just turned 18 years old and almost a preternatural ability to play the game. His offense is going to be fine.
The game coming up figures to be a tougher one than the last few. The Lumberjacks are coming off a win at LSU, and while nobody expects LSU to compete for league titles this year, the Tigers have been vastly improved and better than I expected.
Look for Mizzou to be in a bigger dog fight than they’ve been in a while and I’d expect this could be the game most likely to tell us what kind of season this team is going to have going forward. Win easily against a good team like SFA? Well, I think ever our highest of expectations could be in sight this season.
Saying that while an elite player like Michael Porter Jr has played a combined total of two minutes all season is kinda cool.
This is a good basketball team.