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Study Hall: Mizzou 59, Tennessee 55

The Mizzou defense, and Kevin Puryear, made sustained appearances last night. More, please.

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

With one look at the halftime stats last night, I realized Missouri was in very, very good shape in this one.

  • Mizzou was 0-for-7 from 3-point range.
  • Halftime BCI (Assists+Steals/TO): Tennessee 3.33, Mizzou 0.83
  • Score: 27-27.

Mizzou simply wasn’t going to go 0-fer from long range for 20 more minutes, and while the ball-control battle could remain bad, it probably wasn’t going to get worse. If the Tigers were tied with Tennessee at that point, then any progression to the mean would likely put them in front.

It did. Just barely.

Team Stats

  • Mizzou was 4-for-11 from 3-point range in the second half.
  • Second-half BCI: Mizzou 1.50, Tennessee 1.33.
  • Score: Mizzou 32, Tennessee 28

Mizzou couldn’t really pull away because Tennessee was also playing better. The Vols are a resilient team that wouldn’t let the Tigers run away and hide. But in the end, Mizzou won three of the four factors (shooting, fouls, rebounding) and merely lost the fourth factor (ball handling) instead of getting utterly demolished in it. Made the difference.

Really nice job on the glass, by the way. Tennessee is a tremendous offensive rebounding team, but the Vols grabbed 2.3 fewer offensive boards than expected. Neither team got rolling from long range, and neither team generated a ton of second chances. The defenses did a lovely job in most aspects.

Player Stats

Your Trifecta: Puryear-Geist-Porter

This is Puryear’s first Trifecta appearance since the Miami (Ohio) game on December 5. Since then, he’d been averaging 5.8 PPG on 38% shooting. On Wednesday night, he more than doubled that.

I would have guessed that getting a combined 18 points from Jordan Barnett and Kassius Robertson on 23 shots, with 11.9 Adj. GS points, would mean Mizzou is doomed as often as not. But Puryear made up the difference, as did Jordan Geist. The two of them scored 21 points on just 10 field goal attempts, while Puryear and Jontay Porter combined to grab 15 defensive rebounds. Puryear was a damn horse in this one.

Also worth noting:

  • Jeremiah Tilmon did a nice job of helping to remain afloat in the first half (five points), even if he was mostly a liability in the second (two points, three fouls, three turnovers).
  • Reed Nikko: INFINITY points per FG attempt!
  • Usage Watch: Nikko aside, Porter and Tilmon occupied the highest frequency of possessions but didn’t do a hell of a lot with them, while Puryear and Geist nicely let the game come to them.
  • %Pass Watch: Terrence Phillips maintained a point guard’s profile with a %Pass figure well over 75%, but nobody else hit that mark. That’s kind of how it goes when you only end up with 10 assists.

Obviously most of these stats deal with offense, but this game was won on defense. Missouri entered the KenPom top 100 on that side of the ball by holding a lovely Tennessee offense to 0.93 points per possession. For perspective, Arkansas averaged 1.04, and Florida averaged 1.24. The final score makes it seem like defenses dominated, and a glacial tempo had a role to play, but Missouri’s defense did a lovely job of preventing good looks and grabbing defense rebounds.

I said on The Closers yesterday that a) Kevin Puryear’s emergence would be very important to how close Mizzou gets to its ceiling this year, and b) if you’re looking to go 9-9 in conference play, then winning one of the next three games (Tennessee, A&M, Auburn) was key.

Regarding (a), it’s fair to say that Cuonzo Martin agrees. Regarding (b), well ... the Tigers have the one. Let’s see if they can get two. Their KenPom projection is now 20-11 and 10-8 in conference play. And considering they’re two baskets from being 5-0 in the SEC, I’m thinking they may have their own sights set even higher than that.