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Study Hall: Missouri 80, Central Missouri 56

They started off slow, but the defensive intensity turned up in a big way in the second half.

study hall 2020

So this game wasn’t on television, and I wasn’t in the building. Bill C. used to do this occasionally. Still, it’s bizarre to me to look at stats and derive what happened without having seen how they happened. That said, I’ll give it a go.

I’m also testing some new formats and stats. This is as much an exercise for those as it is for this game, which ultimately didn’t matter.

Team Stats

study hall 2020 central missouri

First, I’m showing how many possessions a team had that didn’t result in a turnover. Will it be worthwhile? I can’t say, but I’ll give it a beta test.

What I do know is a 71-possession game is faster than Missouri has typically played under Martin. The turnover count in the first half was way too high, but leveled out after the break. Since turnovers have been a lingering issue with this program, the first half was slightly disconcerting. But keep in mind:

  1. It was the first time this team played a live game under the lights.
  2. The Tigers were moving bodies in and out, mixing lineups and testing chemistry.

Basically, when you combine nerves and developing chemistry, you’ll have some unforced errors. The hope is an exhibition win over the Mules gets that out of the Tigers’ system before it opens the season against Incarnate Word. While I don’t expect the Tigers to commit just two turnovers in a half like what happened after halftime, it looked like progress.

  • The offense hasn’t changed a whole lot, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Let’s be clear: MU’s system is designed to generate quality catch-and-shoots. The Tigers are going to take a higher volume of 3-pointers. What can’t happen is settling for those shots instead of cutting or attacking closeouts. On Friday, the Tigers settled early and weren’t very accurate overall. Arguably, the Tigers two best shooters — Torrence Watson and Mark Smith — combined to go 4 of 12, Kobe Brown was 3-of-8, and everyone else clanked eight of nine tries. It’s also evident the approach changed in the second half when just 41 percent of Mizzou’s shots came from long range. It was apparent coach Cuonzo Martin wanted to get plays going toward the rim.
  • Attacking the rim ran up the free-throw count. Last season, Mizzou didn’t get to the rim all that much, and when they reached that destination, the outcome was rarely good. Against Central Missouri, it was disconcerting to see MU go 22 minutes without earning a free-throw, but the necessity to put pressure on the front of the rim ended the drought. MU posted a 61 percent free-throw rate, which is well ahead of last year’s figure. Now, that’s not sustainable, but if the Tigers can settle in somewhere in the mid-30s, they’d be among the top-100 nationally.
  • I’m probably going to switch up how we calculate the assist rate. When Bill C. compiled stats, it was derived by dividing assists by total possessions. The more mainstream approach is to use made field goals. Either way, the assist tally was up, and that’s a good thing. Friday night, 19 of MU’s 29 made shots were assisted, or 65 percent. That’s more than acceptable. Obviously, it’s easier to get the shots you want against a team like Central Missouri, but that’s an improved trend over previous years where assisted baskets were a problem.

Player Stats

Your Trifecta: Dru Smith, Mark Smith, Kobe Brown

study hall 2020 central missouri

Dru Smith‘s stat line — 8 points, 7 assists, and 6 steals — is one we should get accustomed to seeing. The Evansville transfer has a reputation for being a sound decision-maker and savvy defender, and he was precisely that against Central Missouri.

Looking over the stat sheet, it’s also clear Martin and his staff mixed and matched liberally. Eleven players logged at least 10 minutes, but none had more than 27. From a technical perspective, it’s interesting to see how offensive rating changes the outlook of the game score. I also didn’t realize my spreadsheet didn’t weight assists as a variable in calculating that rating, so take that table with a grain of salt. For example, tweaking it gives Dru a 137 offensive rating — well ahead of the 96 you see in the chart.

TAKEAWAY: Upon further review, no one who saw action truly struggled, while the Tigers exited healthy. That’s what you want. The coaching staff fed their newcomers and freshmen ample minutes but still had the flexibility to stick with known quantities when it was time to change the momentum. Once the season gets into full gear, it’ll be worth noting what rotations get the most traction. Granted, I am surprised Mario McKinney Jr. didn’t enter the game until the second half. The first thing he did? Notch a steal. McKinney is just a guy who makes things happen.

study hall 2020 central missouri

Somebody check on Xavier Pinson, please. Pinson and Mark Smith , who might have knocked off a bit of rust, were the only scholarship players to post a floor percentage below 40.0. As a reminder, floor percentage is the percentage of possessions where the team scored when you were on the floor.

Pinson’s usage rate was also low, which is a contrast to his freshman year when he had one of the higher marks on the roster. That’s a figure I’ll be interested in tracking. The chief task for Pinson was to take better care of the ball, make smart passes and defend. Last night, his turnover rate came in under 10 percent, while his passing percentage reflected a clear effort to serve as a distributor. That counts as progress.

I appreciate that Matt does this after each game. But as he noted on Twitter, it’s still early to learn a lot from this exhibition game. The staff came into it looking to wipe away some cobwebs and see what different combinations would produce. Look at the first two lines of the spreadsheet. There are 10 names. Meanwhile, the offense was likely vanilla in terms of the actions MU ran. When Martin needed his team to get separation, he leaned on groupings he could trust.

During the first half, we saw several frustrating themes crop up: careless turnovers, Tilmon getting tagged with cheap offensive fouls, and a five-minute scoring drought. But when the time came, MU ratcheted up its focus, leaned on reliable contributors — hello, Javon Pickett — and put on the clamps defensively. The Mules only averaged 0.78 points per possession, and that included shooting 50 percent from the 3-point arc. The Tiger defense helped fluster UCM into committing 27 turnovers, which sapped vital possessions. The fact the Tigers got separation on a night when jumpers weren’t dropping is also a positive sign.

The real season kicks off Wednesday night against Incarnate Word.