Over the course of 30-plus games, a lot of your team’s contests are going to end up following a certain script — we’re going to pretty clearly get to know its strengths and weaknesses, and we’re going to be able to sense certain things coming.
In one way, Mizzou’s win over A&M very much followed a certain script: Mizzou was up 11 points with about five minutes left and had to hold on for dear life. That was almost exactly what happened three days early with Mississippi State in town. We remember the stretch run more than any other part of the game, and for obvious reasons.
So yeah, that was familiar. Nothing else made a lot of sense in this game, however.
- Mizzou got absolutely smoked on the glass. The Tigers missed 34 shots from the field, plus six free throws, and grabbed just five offensive rebounds. One was a deadball rebound, so there were just four second-chance opportunities. For a team that shot 44% on 2-pointers and 30% on 3-pointers, that’s deadly. That gives you almost no chance of winning, especially considering...
- Mizzou drew fewer fouls than normal. The Tigers’ season average for FTA/FGA is about 0.38; it was only 0.32. So basically, Mizzou was getting one shot off and generating few easy points.
For Mizzou to win this game, then, a few obvious things needed to happen:
- Mizzou needed A&M to shoot just as poorly. CHECK! A&M’s True Shooting percentage (45%) was even worse than Mizzou’s (49%). The Aggies were better inside the arc but quite a bit worse outside the arc.
- Mizzou needed to avoid fouling itself. Holy crap, CHECK. The Tigers were whistled for nine fouls all game. A&M settling for 23 3-pointers helped, and I’m sure there are some A&M fans willing to reference home-court advantage there. But it needed to happen this way, and it did.
- Mizzou needed to win the ball-handling advantage. Somehow, CHECK. Mizzou had 3.5x more assists, 2.5x more steals, and barely half as many turnovers. MIZZOU did that! Granted, the Tigers still turned it over three times in the final five minutes, but all 40 minutes count, and Mizzou had the 11-point lead to (mostly) blow because of ball-handling. It was the same story for about 38 minutes against Mississippi State, too. This area ... might be improving? Possibly?
Your Trifecta: Robertson-Barnett-Tilmon
For the second straight game, both Kassius Robertson and Jordan Barnett were in the Trifecta. You want to see your senior leaders coming through down the stretch, and that’s what has happened this week.
That said, the freshmen were big-time, too. The scoring margin between Mizzou and A&M flipped by 15 points from College Station to Mizzou (from A&M by 11 to Mizzou by 4), and guess how much the Adj. GS contribution of Jeremiah Tilmon and Jontay Porter improved by on Tuesday? 16.6.
- Tilmon and Porter vs. A&M in College Station: 45 minutes, 9 points (on 17 FG attempts), 10 reb (3 off), 2 TO, 7 PF, 1.5 Adj. GS points
- Tilmon and Porter vs. A&M in Columbia: 53 minutes, 25 points (on 25 FG attempts), 12 reb (2 off), 2 TO, 5 PF, 18.1 Adj. GS points
(In both games, by the way, Tilmon was solid. Porter’s play was a 180-degree turnaround in these two games despite the fact that he still shot poorly in Columbia.)
There still wasn’t a huge amount of efficiency here, but Tilmon once again timed his buckets beautifully, and ... Mizzou simply needed something from them and got it. Made an enormous difference.
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 just barely got three. Needed all three.
Next up: an LSU team that is nothing like the teams Missouri has been playing of late. The Tigers have a great offense — they shoot well and don’t turn the ball over, and that overcomes iffy rebounding and a lack of free throws — but they let you shoot well, too, they give up a lot of 3-point attempts, and they are probably the worst rebounding team in SEC play. That’s a jarring shift. We’ll see how Mizzou deals with it.