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Study Hall: Mizzou 82, Stephen F. Austin 81

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Survive and advance.

Stephen F Austin v Missouri Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Told you that one would be a challenge. They say styles make fights, and “Mizzou facing the best turnover-forcing defense in the country” seems like one hell of a fight.

Team Stats

Missouri shot absurdly well, and thank goodness for that. But the most impressive stat from this game didn’t make it into the box score:

  • Total Field Goal Attempts: SFA 63, Missouri 43

The Jacks took 20 more shots than the Tigers. Now, part of that is because Mizzou was making so many, but with a plus-8 turnover margin and 13 offensive rebounds, SFA was able to nearly turn the tables by creating enough chances to match Mizzou. This is exactly the kind of mid-major opponent you do not want to face — one that has beaten power conference teams already and knows exactly how it’s going to go about beating you — and hopefully Missouri is a better team for having survived the test.

Player Stats

Your Trifecta: Barnett-Robertson-Tilmon

For obvious reasons (45 combined points), Jordan Barnett and Kassius Robertson stole most of the headlines in this one. But thank goodness for Blake Harris, huh? The freshman wasn’t ready to play a major role against West Virginia, but without him the Tigers probably lose to this pressure team as well.

With Jordan Geist and Terrence Phillips combining for a rather incredible nine turnovers (with just four assists) in 30 minutes, Harris logged 13 productive minutes: He made two of four shots, dished five assists, and stole three balls. Sure, he had two TOs himself, but he contributed way more to the box score in 13 minutes than Geist and Phillips did in 30.

By the way, Kevin Puryear’s relative absence continued. He was averaging 12.6 points per game through the first nine games but has scored just 14 total points, on 5-for-17 shooting, in the past three contests. Hopefully he’s saving up for Braggin’ Rights.

As we’ve discussed, a lot of Missouri’s turnover issues stem from a crazy level of ball movement. That produces a ton of assists (Mizzou is still 26th in assists per FG made) but also means a lot of guys are making some semi-tough passes.

Tuesday’s turnover issues did not stem from that. This was pure ball pressure, and Geist and Phillips wilted underneath it. They were the only two guys with a %TO over 10 percent, and it removed all margin for error. If Missouri doesn’t shoot quite as well from the field or the free throw line, or if Harris doesn’t step up and log some solid minutes, or if the bigs are even one turnover worse, then Mizzou quite possibly doesn’t win this game.

That’s the bad news. The good news: Mizzou has now faced the three best turnover-forcing defenses in the country in WVU, SFA, and St. John’s. The fact that the Tigers won two of those three games is pretty exciting. They figured out a way to overcome their biggest weakness, and now only a few remaining opponents (Tennessee, Mississippi State, South Carolina) are anywhere close to that level from a TOs perspective.

Mizzou almost lost to a team outside of the KenPom top-100, and I find myself pretty happy about it. The Tigers needed a test like that. Survive and advance (to Braggin’ Rights).