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Study Hall: Auburn 92, Mizzou 58

The positivity train took a bit of a hit last night as Auburn drained three after three.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn gave you hope at the start of the game. They were more than happy to play a passionless half filled with lazy offense, half-hearted defense, and a host of 3-point attempts that rattled out. The pace bogged down to Missouri’s liking, and the Tigers pieced together enough offense behind early contributions from Jeremiah Tilmon and Torrence Watson.

Going into halftime Mizzou was down three, and I felt the optimism on Twitter. If you know Auburn, though, you realized the other shoe was about to drop.

It landed right on MU’s head.

Auburn raced out of the gates, and it got ugly in a hurry. After a Tilmon basket to open the second half, Auburn went on a tear which saw them pour in 30 points in less than nine minutes of game action. Here’s how the scoring went:

  • AUB made 3
  • AUB made 3
  • AUB made 3
  • MIZ made 2
  • AUB made FT
  • AUB made 3
  • MIZ made 2
  • AUB made 3
  • AUB made 3
  • MIZ made FT (2)
  • AUB made 2 (+1)
  • AUB made 3
  • AUB made 2
  • AUB made 3

That’s a 30-6 run, and that, my friends, is what you call a knockout punch. Auburn is a fully formed organism right now, and Cuonzo Martin’s Tigers are, well, not. Last year’s patchwork roster gave Mizzou fans hope to think Martin could stick the landing and get things humming. Yet the core of the program has been hollowed out, and the reality of a rebuild seems to be settling in.

With that said, Mizzou’s inefficiencies are known, and even last year Bruce Pearl marched his team into Columbia and torched an NCAA tournament team. This game was a lot like that one except that Mizzou team had Jordan Barnett, Kassius Robertson, and Jontay Porter. This roster has guys you hope can turn into those guys.

(Side note: I always hate when both teams are called the Tigers because it makes it so much harder to use a team identifier as the mascot.)

Team Stats

2019 study hall auburn team stats
  • Early on, when I was badgering Jack Parodi, to get the game thread live: I told him to watch possessions. If they went north of 70 Mizzou was toast. The (good) Tigers needed to keep the pace in the mid- to low 60s, and for the first half, it looked like they might get there. For the first four to five minutes, it was quickly paced, and then Mizzou asserted its will, bogged the game down and outscored Auburn 24-21 the rest of the way.

The good news is Missouri is capable of bending the tempo to its liking against good teams. We saw it against LSU and again last night. The bad news is Auburn was never going to get stuck in the mud for very long at home and in desperate need of a win.

  • Again, the tale of two halves: Mizzou was excellent in controlling the glass in the first half as they were plus-8. After the break? Minus-9. That’s bad. Part of that was Auburn was hoisting up 3-pointer at every slightly open look, giving them long rebounds. And being the more athletic team, they were more likely to win the battles for those 50-50 balls. Also, Mizzou missed more.
  • Going on the road and shooting poorly, while turning the ball over, isn’t what I’d call a recipe for success: both true-shooting and effective-field-goal percentages finished below 50%, and the turnover rate topped out 27.5 percent.

Given the respective state of each program, Auburn is a bad matchup for Mizzou. This was true last year, and it’s still true this year. As Martin builds his program, you hope he can put together a roster with a similar amount of athleticism, but Auburn pulls three or four guys off its bench that would start at Mizzou right now. Pearl has his thing humming, and while they don’t quite play with the same chip on their shoulder, they’re still really talented and a top-20 KenPom team.

Player Stats

Your Trifecta: Jordan Geist, Jeremiah Tilmon, Javon Pickett

study hall 2019 auburn gmsc

On the season: Jordan Geist 32 points, Mark Smith 25 points, Jeremiah Tilmon 22 points, Javon Pickett 12 points, Kevin Puryear 8 points, Xavier Pinson 6 points, Torrence Watson 5 points, Reed Nikko 2 points.

Jordan Geist wasn’t very good. The fact he was second in the trifecta tells you about all you need to know. Jeremiah Tilmon led the trifecta, and while he was good, he wasn’t even close to as good as we’ve seen him. Third place? Reed Nikko, in just 12 minutes. (Sigh)

It was nice to see Torrence Watson break out a bit in the first half. But Auburn clearly keyed on him in the second half, and his windows became much smaller, and that threw him off. Pinson had some nice moments and some WTF moments as well.

study hall 2019 player% lsu

Mizzou’s advantage in the game was inside. Nikko and Tilmon were bigger and more effective than what you might consider Auburn’s bigs. The problem, however, is while Tilmon and Nikko basically went unchallenged on the interior, they were ineffective in defending Chuma Okeke (2 of 4 on 3FGA), Anfernee McLemore (2 of 7 3FGA), and Horace Spencer (1 of 2 3FGA). Auburn spread Mizzou out and bombed away.

So without Mark Smith sidelined and with Jordan Geist struggling, it was basically over for Mizzou.

We’ve talked often about the margin of error for the Tigers, and it mostly consists of Geist playing well, Mark Smith shooting from deep, Tilmon staying on the floor, and one or two other guys giving them more than you expect on a given night. When only one of those things happen Mizzou gets blown out, when two of them happen it’s a close loss, three of them and you’re competitive, but you need all four to win.

Let’s hope they get all four to work against the reeling Vanderbilt Commodores. After all, it’s a Rally for Rhyan game, and Mizzou is still undefeated in those games. Let’s keep the streak alive.