Last night, the Missouri went on the road for an expectedly tough game against a top-25 opponent and lost in overtime. It sucked.
What’s funny is Missouri looked like the better team for long stretches, especially early in the second half. However, they were bad enough for 15 minutes in the first half that it took every ounce of effort to climb back against Xavier.
Once Jeremiah Tilmon was saddled with two fouls in three minutes, Xavier dragged out a 25-8 run over the next 12 minutes, building a 13-point lead. To say it was ugly would do a serious disservice to all things ugly around the world.
Those dozen minutes saw everything go awry: errant passes, airmailed jumpers and missed dunks. MU’s offense looked hapless. Fortunately, the Tigers’ defense travels. The Musketeers couldn’t capitalize on Tilmon’s absence or MU’s careless ball movement, shooting 9 of 28 from the floor in the first half, which they closed with a scoreless four-minute span. But before I get too stat-heavy, here’s a picture.
- This game was EEEEEEEEEVEN: Two tough and physical teams played a tight game, and ultimately the home team got the line more. This may come as a surprise to a lot of people who follow college basketball, but Xavier got a few more friendly whistles. The Musketeers offense is reliant on using high ball-screens to get going toward the rim. Meanwhile, Missouri spaces the floor, hunting for open catch-and-shoots or wide gaps.
- Both teams were able to take away what the other team does well. Missouri didn’t have acres of room and was forced to make contested shots around the rim. Yet Xavier also had to sweat. When Tilmon was on the floor, MU used drop coverage defensively to clog up the middle of the floor, forcing the Musketeers to beat them from long distance. In the end, both teams posted effective-field-goal percentages less than 40.0.
- The Tigers cut down their turnovers after halftime, but the tally was too high. After 13 in the first half, MU committed just 12 over the entirety of the second half and overtime. That pushed the turnover percentage down, but coughing the ball up every fourth possession won’t cut it. According to KenPom, MU ranks 282nd nationally in unforced giveaways. Coupled with a rough performance around the rim — MU was 12-26 on layups and dunks — the Tigers put a ton of strain on outside shooting to carry the load.
Given Missouri’s fairly awful offensive performance, you have to be encouraged they even had a chance to win this game.
Your Trifecta: Dru Smith, Jeremiah Tilmon, Jr, Mark Smith
The Offensive Ratings are correct! Remember that offensive ratings are basically how many points an individual player would produce if they were responsible for 100 possessions. I want to start by saying these are all mostly bad numbers. A 100 rating is average, 110 is good, 120 is outstanding. Against Northern Kentucky, Mark Smith posted a 162 offensive rating.
First, the good news. Dru Smith overcame some ugly stretches in the first half to finish with a nice stat line. In the second half, he played 18 minutes, was 3 of 6 from the floor, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range, and didn’t commit a turnover. The Evansville transfer was everything you could want after halftime, but it wasn’t enough to offset an anemic night from his teammates.
The fact Tilmon was second in the trifecta, despite being limited with some foul trouble and lost usage, partly explains why MU suffered a loss. When he was on the floor, he helped solve scrunched spacing, excelled defending positionally and capitalized when the ball came his way. Mark Smith was OK, and Xavier Pinson was better late.
However, the Tigers’ freshmen and Javon Pickett struggled mightily. Those four players combined for about 26 percent of minutes played, finishing with an adjusted game score of minus-14.3, five points and eight turnovers. Now, it’s not a surprise that freshmen played inefficient hoops in a harsh road environment. Pickett’s struggles, though, stretch back to the season-opener. While he’s had productive bursts, he hasn’t been as consistent as you’d expect from a sophomore.
God bless Mario McKinney Jr. for coming in and doing exactly what he was asked to do: attack. When you play four minutes, muster a 39-percent usage rate and a 100.0 shooting percentage, you’re not doing anything else. It wasn’t effective, but neither was anything else Missouri was doing in the first half, so I appreciate his efforts.
You do have to credit Xavier for some of the lousy offensive numbers. I don’t want to diminish their effective game plan. However, I believe if Tilmon plays 11 minutes in the first half, Missouri probably wins this game.
Nikko was solid defensively in his minutes, but he just doesn’t change the dimensions of the floor the way Tilmon does.
If you’re going to take a road loss, you want to improve your KenPom ranking and drag your opponent down a few notches. Well, Missouri did both.
They started at 33rd in KenPom, and finished the night 32nd, while Xavier slipped to 21st from 18th. Missouri has a defense that travels, and that’s a positive. Yet the offense hasn’t been as crisp as you would like, and it explains why MU sits at No. 85 nationally in adjusted efficiency.
Still, Missouri is a better offense than the numbers show. Mark Smith regressed in this game, and Torrence Watson is only shooting 25 percent behind the 3-point arc. Meanwhile, Pickett (25%), Pinson (14%) and Kobe Brown (18%) aren’t faring any better.
I don’t expect Mizzou to run out five copies of Stephen Curry, but they should be better shooters than they’ve shown. Still, after watching them scratch and claw against a good Xavier team, I’m not sure anything has changed. Sure, they should have won. They were ahead late and had a couple plays go the other way down the stretch. It was enough for the Musketeers to force overtime. But this is still a very good Missouri team, one worthy of its current standing in KenPom.
Here’s Lineup stuff from Matt:
#Mizzou used 27 personnel groupings tonight against Xavier. Tilmon's foul trouble and incorporating Mario McKinney in the first half account the slight uptick. The Tigers also used some jumbo lineups sparingly. pic.twitter.com/mxtHS6LCVv— Matt Harris (@MattJHarris85) November 13, 2019
If you go by win-loss projections in KenPom, Missouri is only an underdog in seven more games this season. They’ll probably lose a couple they shouldn’t, but they’ll also win a few they shouldn’t. If they can find some consistency offensively, this team could really take off.
Missouri is off until next Monday when they have a home game against Wofford. The Terriers will get tested over the weekend against Butler and lost last night to William & Mary.