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Missouri gritted out an important win despite poor shooting

Mizzou won again.

NCAA Basketball: Texas A&M at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

I’d planned on writing a pretty typical post-game thoughts kind of piece. But in the midst of getting started by looking at stats, I got wrapped up is some online dismissals of the job Cuonzo Martin had done and where he stood in even the SEC coach of the year landscape.

I’ve got a lot to say about that later this morning, but before we get there, let’s talk about a win over a very good Texas A&M team.


Box Score TAMU Mizzou 2018

I have several conversations running during each game, and one that Matt and I usually have is what point total do we think Mizzou needs to get to in order to win the game?

The score was 41-32 Tigers, and Matt said:

This feels like a game where if you just hold the line defensively you can pilot the game home.

He wasn’t wrong. My response:

yeah, keep forcing them to take jumpshots, rebound hard and scrape 63 points on offense and you should win

Things got dangerous when Mizzou got to 57 points with 5:39 to play and, as the Tigers are wont to do, sort of went into the crapper offensively. Good shots were there, but there were a lot of misses and turnovers.

Missouri just made it more difficult on themselves, but they seem to like it that way.

Fortunately, Texas A&M and Mizzou have a lot of the same issues.

During the Aggies’ comeback, rookie T.J. Starks was a catalyst. Everyone like to make a big deal out of the Missouri collapse, but the Tigers never really had a good run offensively. They got out to a 14-point lead briefly (a Jontay Porter three was quickly answered by a D.J. Hogg three), but the Tigers’ inconsistency in shooting the ball was leaving them vulnerable to a run by the Aggies.

The Tigers played well enough defensively that, had they shot the ball slightly better, this game could have gotten away from the Aggies in a hurry. But the Tigers never felt in total control of the game.

The Aggies were awful for about 35 minutes. They threw the ball away, took a ton of lazy threes, and played a zone defense where the back of the zone just let Mizzou have position.

As they chucked up threes (and did their best to negate their best strength), the Aggies fell behind. Perimeter players took 39 of the team’s 62 shots, including 15 3-pointers. Admon Gilder, Hogg, and T.J. Starks accounted for an inefficient 41 points on 39 shots, plus 11 turnovers.

NCAA Basketball: Texas A&M at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Without a couple extra guards to turn to, Texas A&M wasn’t able to make Mizzou feel threatened on the ball, so the Tigers’ Achilles heel never came into play. Instead, it was Mizzou’s strength, jump shooting, that failed.

Mizzou shot just 39% from the floor and 30% from 3-point range, which were both well below their season averages. Most notably, Jontay Porter was 4-for-13 from the floor and 1-for-5 from deep. Jeremiah Tilmon seemed to have the most productive 4-for-12 night I’ve ever seen.

Kassius Robertson and Jordan Barnett combined to hit on 12 of 24, including 5 of 13 from deep. That was just barely enough.

While Porter and Tilmon weren’t efficient from the floor, they played with a level of fearlessness that felt like the difference in the game.

This was the most confident version of Tilmon we’ve seen. Imagine what he’ll be capable of when he can play without fear of fouling out and learns to finish on those 50-50 attacks on the rim. Imagine him learning to draw contact while still finishing a dunk or a layup — this four-point win could have been about a 12-point win.

Jontay, meanwhile, did everything you can ask of him. He got open shots — he just missed them. He won't miss that many open shots on most nights. In a lot of ways the Aggies got lucky this wasn’t a 15-point game.

Coming up next the Tigers travel to LSU for a very winnable road game against a very flawed but plucky team in the LSU Tigers.

Led by Tremont Waters and Will Wade, they like to play with pace — they’re fast and efficient on offense at times — and without defense. It’s a virtual tossup according to KenPom.

LSU is coming off a road loss to Alabama, but the Tigers are a lot tougher at home with wins over Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Texas A&M and close losses to Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky. This feels like a game Mizzou should win, but LSU will probably force the Tigers to play well to do so.