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Study Hall: Missouri 89, Mississippi State 85

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Mizzou got knocked down twice in the 10th round, then scored a 12th-round knockout.

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi State at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

This was one of those games in which it is almost funny to look at the full-game stats. It makes you think you were watching the wrong game. “Missouri broke even in the ball-handling battle? That can’t possibly be right!”

To get a better sense of the absurd ebbs and flows of this one, let’s break out an old trick: round-by-round scoring.

  • Round 1: 10-10
  • Round 2: 10-9 MSU
  • Round 3: 10-9 Mizzou
  • Round 4: 10-9 Mizzou
  • Round 5: 10-9 Mizzou
  • Round 6: 10-9 MSU
  • Round 7: 10-9 Mizzou
  • Round 8: 10-9 MSU
  • Round 9: 10-9 Mizzou
  • Round 10: 10-7 MSU (double knockdown)
  • Round 11: 10-9 MSU
  • Round 12: KO Mizzou

Attack and defense, invasion and repulsion. With a minute and a half left in regulation, this game had been defined by Missouri’s ability to absorb solid shots from MSU and respond in kind. The Bulldogs consistently pecked to within three or five points in the second half only to watch the deficit grow back toward double digits.

And then the last 6.5 minutes were a full 12-round fight of their own.

Team Stats

Mizzou indeed broke even in the ball-handling battle — it was an outright win until the amazing collapse of the last 90 seconds of regulation — and both shot better and drew more fouls.

From this path, the only way for MSU to have a chance would have been to win the rebounding battle, and the Bulldogs did so.

MSU created about three extra possessions on the glass, which was surprising considering that, from the perspective of full-season stats, this was an even battle. The most incredible stat from the game might be this: in a combined 52 minutes of play, Mizzou’s Jeremiah Tilmon, Jontay Porter, and Reed Nikko combined for one defensive rebound. Hell, they had only three rebounds total.

The timeliness of Mizzou’s rare offensive rebounds was amazing, though.

  • With 5:41 left in regulation and Mizzou’s lead down to 3, Kassius Robertson misses a jumper, but Tilmon secures the rebound and makes the putback.
  • With 1:45 left in OT and Mizzou down 4, Jordan Geist rebounds a Jordan Barnett missed 3. The ball makes it to Kassius Robertson, who misses a 3 of his own, but Barnett grabs the carom, gets fouled, and makes two free throws.
  • With 1:10 left and Mizzou down 2, Robertson takes a rather foolish 3 and misses, but Kevin Puryear boxes out perfectly and ties the game on a putback.

Mizzou grabbed offensive boards on just six possessions but got points out of four of them, including two in the final two minutes. Make ‘em count.

Two games don’t prove or disprove a rule, but if you were looking for evidence of Ken Pomeroy’s “3-pointers are really damn random” theory, start with this year’s Mizzou-MSU series.

  1. Against SEC teams not named Mizzou, MSU is 53-for-215 from 3-point range, a dreadful 25%.
  2. SEC opponents not named Mississippi State are 59-for-203 on 3-pointers, an also-dreadful 29%.
  3. Mississippi State made 17 of 47 3s in two games against Mizzou, 36%. The Bulldogs got about 13 more points from 3-pointers than season averages would have suggested.

Seemed like an even higher percentage than that, though, didn’t it? MSU started the game 4-for-5 from long range and made two of three at the end of regulation and the start of OT. Luckily, that hot start seemed to induce the Bulldogs into settling for 3s throughout the middle of the game, and they otherwise went just 5-for-23. This settling was a big reason why Mizzou was able to push its lead out to 12 in the closing minutes of regulation.

Player Stats

Your Trifecta: Robertson-Geist-Barnett.

Mizzou’s “unbeaten when Jontay scores in double-digits” streak survived, albeit via technicality.

This was a very un-Jontay game — he added points to the box score, but almost nothing else. No rebounds and no more than one assist, steal, or block. Oh yeah, and nine combined TOs and fouls.

After his incredible performances in recent contests, Porter was probably due a few freshman moments. And his horrid “inbound the ball to no one” turnover with 41 seconds left in regulation was as “freshman moment” as it gets.

This was a game for the veterans.

  • Juniors and seniors: 173 minutes, 73.0 Adj. GS points (0.42 per min)
  • Freshmen and sophomores: 52 minutes, 14.0 Adj. GS points (0.27 per min)

On a per-minute basis, Geist had the best day

Of course, one of the deciding factors in this game was that there were no negative contributions.

Nikko was at the bottom of the contributions list but made two free throws and blocked a shot. Cullen VanLeer had two rebounds and two assists. Porter made five of six free throws. Tilmon had two huge buckets down the stretch. Et cetera.

FLOOR(%) CHECK: When Mizzou has at least four players at 40+% in the Floor% category (percentage of your possessions that result in points), the Tigers win. They had five players hit that mark on Saturday. And needed all five.

This was a unique game from a usage perspective. During Mizzou’s winning streak, the bigs — Tilmon, Porter, and Nikko — have all had high usage rates, meaning they’ve been the focus of a high percentage of possessions. Instead, only Porter was over the average of 20% in this one. Part of that is because there were so few offensive rebounds, and part was because Robertson and Puryear took quite a few late 3-pointers (and, in Robertson’s case, free throws). Still, a unique distribution in this one.

One last thing, because I had to mention it:

The difference in form between Kevin Puryear’s two 3-point attempts was amazing. With three minutes left in OT and Mizzou incredibly stagnant (and down by two), the junior found himself open near the top of the key and attempted one of the worst 3s you’ll ever see. You could tell from the moment it left his hand that it had no chance. He was uncomfortable, his form kinked.

Then, with 10 seconds in a game Missouri had completely given away, he took a pass from Robertson and took a shot so pure, I actually said “Oh hell yes” as it was in the air.

Not since Kim English has a player’s form so clearly defined the success of his shot. Robertson has made some “No, no, no ... YES!” 3s this year, but with Puryear, you pretty much know if it’s going in the moment it’s released.