If you want to sum up Mizzou’s meeting with Butler in its simplest form, it goes like this: the Tigers were awful for the first four minutes, bad for the next four, and regressing to the mean defensively wasn’t enough. So they lost to a pretty good team.
There’s a game against Oklahoma tonight, so I want to hop right in, then we’ll talk.
- How do you know Butler won the game? Peep the rebound margin. The Bulldogs won it handily. Even when Missouri was fighting to make a comeback, the Bulldogs corralled loose balls and secured second possessions. If you know coach Cuonzo Martin, that has to eat at him, and I imagine he’ll bring it up with the guys.
- Mizzou was sloppy with the ball early but settled in. The Tigers turned the ball over five times in their first possessions but only had eight the rest of the way. They also turned the Bulldogs over enough to nearly offset the BCI, but Butler’s jump-shooting success contributed to their 13 assists.
- Speaking of jump-shooting, are you worried about Missouri’s ability to shoot? If you aren’t, you probably should be. We had enough data going into the season to expect that to be a strength for this team, but six games in, they’ve been dreadful. Anyone not named Mark Smith is shooting 21.5 percent from 3-point range, and Smith isn’t shooting anywhere near the clip he was a year ago. So as the Tigers clanked jumpers, Butler broke out of their early-season slump long enough to bury five 3s in the first 8 minutes. That’s all it took.
The Bulldogs rode that hot start to seize control of the pace, and Missouri seemed happy to oblige. This game was a slog. Normally, that might work to MU’s advantage. But without the ability to stretch the floor and an inert Jeremiah Tilmon, it was tough to get anything going. Credit to Butler for winning that battle.
Your Trifecta: Dru Smith, Kobe Brown, Xavier Pinson
On the season: Mark Smith 12 points, Jeremiah Tilmon 9 points, Dru Smith 9 points, Xavier Pinson 4 points, Javon Pickett 2 points, Kobe Brown 2 points, Mitchell Smith 1 point.
So, this is kind of new.
Dru Smith was obviously outstanding. Kobe Brown was good offensively. And Pinson had his moments. That said, I’m not sure I’ve seen six players in the negative adjusted game score before. It’s one thing to have Parker Braun, Mario McKinney Jr., Torrence Watson, and Javon Pickett post negative scores. They combined for 32 minutes or just 16 percent of the game, but when Mark Smith is as bad all those players combined while playing one more minute, it’s not a recipe Missouri should rely on. I know that’s a hot take and in-depth analysis, but they need Mark Smith to win this year.
We can talk about Tilmon, but I don’t even remember his first two fouls. At this point, Missouri has played two high-major teams so far this year, and Tilmon has been limited in both — games where the Tigers dug early holes. There’s no question Tilmon is an incredibly important player, but getting a line like that in a crucial game just can’t happen. And it does. Again and again. It’s frustrating.
The Missouri offense is really effective when they get Tilmon the ball on the block. However, opponents have adjusted how they run an extra defender his way: soft doubling. Instead of digging down as soon as he makes a catch on the block, they wait until he commits to a dribble. At the same time, MU’s not moving enough off the ball, which only encourages the defense to crowd Tilmon more. In the process, the ball gets fumbled, resulting in a turnover. Things would be helped a lot if Mizzou could make a danged jump shot.
The weird offensive numbers continue here, and the underlying problem hasn’t changed. Missouri had some success with a few of the non-regulars. Brown and Mitchell Smith, plus Pinson, were all able to get some buckets, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the no-shows from Tilmon and Mark.
The good news is you get to bounce right back and play again tomorrow
The defense is still excellent, and aside from Butler going 5 of 5 to start the game, they were basically on par for the season.
The offense, though... it’s another matter.
The scheme is sound, but the problem is— guys just aren’t making shots. It doesn’t matter how many different combinations Cuonzo Martin tries, he can’t get the production. We all thought another offseason in the program would give the sophomore class a boost, but only Pinson looks improved. Torrence Watson looks lost offensively, as much as he did last year as a freshman. Javon Pickett has had a couple solid games but looks really tentative, and he was utterly lost last night. If you told me before the season Javon Pickett and Torrence Watson would combine for 15 minutes and score zero points, I probably would have question your sanity.
Bottom line: Missouri needs to find production offensively from somewhere. They play an Oklahoma team who looks like they’re in a similar spot, having gotten spanked a bit by a young Stanford team. Mizzou absolutely cannot afford to leave Kansas City with two losses in as many days. They’ve already lost two quad one opportunities this year, and with the way things are going in the SEC, there may not be as many as you’d want within league play.