Well, that could’ve been worse.
Last night is certainly a glass the contains about 50% liquid and it’s up to your own viewpoint as to how you felt the night went. The fan in me looks at the seventh win from a team than won a total of eight last year and feels pleased. Holding Miami to 32.3% shooting is good and defense is one of those things that travels and also what Cuonzo Martin hangs his hat on.
I don’t write much as a fan. I write from my perspective as a former coach as much as I can. From that perspective, this game was barely above watchable. Here’s the box:
1. When your weakness rears its ugly head
In my preview I talked about the things you wanted to see in this game. The biggest one for me is finding a way to finesse your weakness. Mizzou’s very clear giant bright shining weakness is ball control. Against the Redhawks, the 305th ranked team in KenPom and a below average team defensive, the Tigers turned the ball over on one out of every four possessions.
When your eFG% says you score on more than two out of ever four possessions (they’re currently at 58.3% eFG) and you are essentially throwing ONE possession into the trash by being careless with the ball it’s hard to not be mad. And Cuonzo was justifiably mad in the post game presser.
Turnovers are going to happen. Even the best TO% are in the low teens and average is in the high teens. But at some point this is going to lose them an important game if they don't clear it up. It’s already cost them a game against West Virginia, and while there aren’t a lot of teams in the SEC who play defense like WVU, there’s enough good athletic defenders who are going to challenge Mizzou’s ball handlers.
And EASILY a quarter of these turnovers are pure carelessness. And as a coach those are the ones which drive you nuts. Mizzou will have to find a way to get the turnovers cleaned up if only just a little bit. They just need better performances from Terrence Phillips (2 in 7 minutes), Kassius Robertson (5 in 38 minutes), and Blake Harris (4 in 17 minutes) going forward.
2. 3-point shooting can’t be a crutch (I’m looking at you, Jordan Barnett)
It’s great that Barnett is hot from 3, but he’s taken 5 shots all from behind the arc. He’s another guy who needs more action going towards the rim.— Sam Snelling (@SamTSnelling) December 6, 2017
I love the season Jordan Barnett is having so far. Another game in double digits and an average of 18 ppg over his last four games, five plus boards. It’s good. If you take away his ugly three game shooting stretch he’s almost hitting 40% of his threes as well.
But Barnett is a plus athlete and a guy who, quite honestly, has the potential to be a 3&D level player at the next level if he commits to it. However, he is NOT attacking on offense.
Barnett is one of the most fun players to watch in transition and crashing the glass and he is probably one of the better athletes in the league and he doesn’t take advantage of it enough. I’d love to see more catch, rip and go over catch and shoot. Last night JB played 31 minutes and took 11 shots from the field, nine of which were from behind the arc. Attack the rim JB. It’s nice when those shots are falling. But Martin needs his whole team to recognize they can’t just wait for a few three pointers to fall to get the offense going.
3. Kevin Puryear had a night
Puryear with about the quietest 20 point game of his career tonight. 8 shots, 6 FTs, 2-3 from 3FG. And he’s made a lot of big shots including a 6-0 run by himself to give Mizzou it’s first real separation— Sam Snelling (@SamTSnelling) December 6, 2017
Kassius Robertson, Barnett, and Jeremiah Tilmon all had good nights offensively, but it was the quiet efficiency of Kevin Puryear that made the difference.
With 10 minutes gone in the game Mizzou sat locked in a 10-10 tie with a team nowhere near as talented as they are and no energy in the building. It was a struggle and they needed someone to make a few plays to get things going.
Enter Kevin Puryear.
With two layups bookending a pair of free throws, KP separated the Tigers from the Redhawks just enough to provide some breathing room. Over the next 20 minutes the Tigers would essentially double up on Miami by outscoring them 50-27.
Then with a little over five to play the Redhawks cut it to 12 and things were tight. Kassius Robertson hit a three, and then five points from Puryear put the comeback to bed and the Tigers coasted the rest of the way.
Puryear has an important role on this team, especially with Michael Porter Jr sitting out. He’s a face-up post with the ability to stretch the floor, even though he’s a bit undersized. To be good the Tigers need to balance their scoring and the more Puryear can contribute the more dangerous this team can be in SEC play. And you can’t get more efficient than 20 points on just eight shots. That’ll do.
I don’t want to get too down after a win. This team is 7-2. They’re an NCAA team right now according to Joe Lunardi, but you can’t relax. There is a lot of talent but they just aren’t good enough to not show up against even the most meager of opponents.
But to be positive, the Tigers have a chance to equal their win total from last year on Saturday against Green Bay, a team whose best win came against the 338th rated Florida A&M Rattlers. They should be 8-2 by the end of the weekend. This is a good start.
There’s still work to do.
Tigers finished with 69 possessions— Sam Snelling (@SamTSnelling) December 6, 2017