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Missouri-Ole Miss made no sense whatsoever ... except for the final result, anyway

Study Hall time!

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Mississippi Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Your Trifecta: Hughes-VanLeer-Nikko.

Every year features a few “up is down, left is right” games. Well, dogs and cats were definitely cohabitating in Oxford yesterday afternoon. Only the result itself — Mizzou losing a road game — made sense. Everything else seemed backwards.

Ole Miss 80, Missouri 77

Mizzou Ole Miss
Pace (No. of Possessions) 66.0
Points Per Possession (PPP) 1.17 1.21
Points Per Shot (PPS) 1.24 1.63
2-PT FG% 56.3% 35.7%
3-PT FG% 33.3% 52.4%
FT% 78.6% 93.1%
True Shooting % 56.5% 64.8%
FTA/FGA 22.6% 59.2%
Mizzou Ole Miss
Assists 17 10
Steals 6 5
Turnovers 12 17
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.92 0.88
Mizzou Ole Miss
Expected Offensive Rebounds 12.1 10.2
Offensive Rebounds 11 13
Difference -1.1 +2.8
  • Mizzou shot half as many free throws as its opponent and nine more 3-pointers ... and nearly won. That’s not the way things have gone this year. Getting to the line has been key to the Tigers’ chances in a lot of games, even though they haven’t exactly been amazing at making their free throws. In this one, they made 11 of 14, but Ole Miss took 29. Meanwhile, Ole Miss took nine fewer 3s but made one more. And Mizzou nearly won.
  • Mizzou dominated ball-handling ... and lost. Mizzou had seven more assists, one more steal, and five fewer turnovers. Those five or six extra possessions in there helped to make up some of the ground Mizzou lost in shooting and rebounding. And during the 25-13 run that the Tigers made to take the lead from 9:30 left to 3:11 left, ball-handling played a key role: Ole Miss had four turnovers, and Mizzou had six assists and two steals.

That was maybe the most impressive six minutes of Mizzou’s season, all things considered. Terrence Phillips had left his 3-point shot back in Columbia, Kevin Puryear was bringing little to the table, Russell Woods was basically getting whistled for a foul every time he walked onto the court ... and Frankie Hughes, Cullen VanLeer, Reed Nikko, and Jordan Geist nearly ended the road losing streak.

But they didn’t, of course. The road losing streak is immortal. Mizzou has now lost road games by three, three, and five points in conference play. One of those is supposed to accidentally go your way. But now (probably) Kim Anderson has one final opportunity to win a road game as Missouri head coach.

Mizzou Player Stats

Player AdjGS GmSc/Min Line
Frankie Hughes 21.3 0.79 27 Min, 22 Pts (6-16 FG, 5-11 3PT, 5-6 FT), 2 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 TO, 2 PF
Cullen VanLeer 16.1 0.73 22 Min, 10 Pts (3-4 FG, 2-3 3PT, 2-2 FT), 4 Reb (2 Off), 1 Ast
Reed Nikko 13.5 0.59 23 Min, 8 Pts (3-4 FG, 2-3 FT), 9 Reb (4 Off), 2 Blk, 2 TO, 1 PF
Jordan Geist 10.0 0.43 23 Min, 11 Pts (5-10 FG, 1-4 3PT, 0-1 FT), 1 Reb (1 Off), 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 TO, 2 PF
Jordan Barnett 9.8 0.33 30 Min, 14 Pts (6-11 FG, 2-5 3PT), 3 Reb (2 Off), 2 TO, 4 PF
Terrence Phillips 7.5 0.25 30 Min, 6 Pts (3-9 FG, 0-6 3PT), 1 Reb, 8 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 TO, 4 PF
Russell Woods 2.9 0.21 14 Min, 4 Pts (1-2 FG, 2-2 FT), 2 Reb (1 Off), 5 PF
K.J. Walton 0.7 0.07 11 Min, 0 Pts (0-0 FG), 1 Reb, 1 Stl, 2 PF
Kevin Puryear -4.8 -0.24 20 Min, 2 Pts (1-6 FG, 0-1 3PT), 2 Reb (1 Off), 3 Ast, 3 TO, 4 PF
Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %T/O
Frankie Hughes 38% 37% 4.8 40% 36% 20% 4%
Cullen VanLeer 11% 67% 1.7 46% 31% 23% 0%
Reed Nikko 16% 44% 1.3 0% 38% 43% 19%
Jordan Geist 25% 42% 3.1 48% 41% 6% 4%
Jordan Barnett 22% 40% 1.3 0% 85% 0% 15%
Terrence Phillips 18% 41% 5.7 81% 16% 0% 3%
Russell Woods 10% 50% 1.0 0% 40% 60% 0%
K.J. Walton 0% N/A 0.0 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Kevin Puryear 22% 19% 3.9 66% 23% 0% 11%
  • Mizzou got a combined minus-1.2 Adj. Game Score points from Russell Woods, K.J. Walton, and Kevin Puryear ... and nearly won. On the road! And they didn’t get double digits from either Jordan Barnett or Terrence Phillips, either. That is supposed to signify a blowout loss.
  • Mizzou got a combined 62.9 Adj. Game Score points from Frankie Hughes, Cullen VanLeer, Reed Nikko, and Jordan Geist ... AND LOST. HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN? I mean, I know how it happens — you get the aforementioned iffy production from all of your best players — but still.

You hate that it came in a loss, but it felt really good seeing Hughes and VanLeer producing. VanLeer made the two free throws that gave Mizzou the lead with 3:11 left, and he made the big 3-pointer to keep Mizzou within one point with 19 seconds left. He grabbed two defensive rebounds and made a jumper during the 25-13 run. He grabbed two offensive rebounds and made two 3s. It was a lovely day for him.


I don’t know how to define Frankie Hughes’ ceiling (or his odds of staying at Mizzou in the postseason, with or without a coaching change), but it was nice to see him simply making some shots and looking like a confident basketball player again. His body language has been ... tenuous, but of course it has. He’s a freshman who’s used to winning and making strong contributions, and he couldn’t buy a jump shot for nearly three months.

Hughes was still just 1-for-5 inside the arc yesterday, but he made 5 of 11 from long range, and most importantly for his brand of basketball, he got to the line. He made 5 of 6 free throws and added three assists and two steals. This was a lovely day for him. Wish he could have been rewarded with a win.

Oh, and ... hello, Reed Nikko! I still have some hope for what he might turn into in a couple of years, and as Kim Anderson mentioned earlier this week, he’s been playing hurt all year. He missed four games, and his jumping ability has clearly been minimal since his return.

But here’s your reminder that in the first four games of the year, he was averaging 15 minutes, 6 points (on 67% shooting from the floor and 75% shooting from the line), and 3 defensive rebounds per game. That’s not bad considering those were the first four games of his college career. But after struggling to keep up with more athletic and healthy bigs through most of SEC play, he’s scored at least five points and grabbed at least six boards in two of the last three games. His four offensive boards were a nice touch. And unlike Russell Woods, he was able to play defense without getting whistled.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Mississippi Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

I feel confident in saying that ...

  1. Kim Anderson’s got three or four games left as Missouri head coach.
  2. His tenure will end without a road win.
  3. If he were to stay for next season, and if his core of players remained intact, this would be a much improved team next year. Not, like, “NCAA Tournament” good by any means, but solid. A top five of Phillips-Walton-Barnett-Puryear-Healthy Nikko, with Hughes and VanLeer making decent contributions off the bench, Mitchell Smith healthy, Jakoby Kemp perhaps ready to contribute a few minutes, etc.? That could be an enjoyable basketball team.

Anderson has not earned a fourth year, however, and therefore almost certainly won’t get one. And while it’s easy to see the effects continuity might have on this roster, it hasn’t been even slightly proven that an Anderson team will experience that continuity.

But I guess the point here is, even with the guy who hasn’t coached well enough to earn a fourth year, this would be a decent team. With a guy who, in theory, is better than Anderson, the future gets pretty bright, pretty quickly.

Of course, part of this little burst of optimism here is based on a) Hughes having a single good game and b) me having a really, really low bar for “improved” or “decent” or “pretty bright.”

But with absolutely nothing to play for down the stretch, Mizzou’s crazy-young team has improved from 196th in KenPom to, currently, 156th, the best the Tigers have been since the Eastern Illinois game. That impresses me.

Granted, Mizzou made a similar move last year (199th on February 6 to 169th on February 27), and that clearly didn’t portend coming success. But last year’s run was powered in part by a couple of players — Ryan Rosburg, Namon Wright — who weren’t long for the team. If this core actually remains intact, it could become interesting. We’ll see.