It’s been a rough few weeks. Not only for Mizzou Basketball but for the Athletic Department in general.
In need of an exhale, the Missouri Basketball Tigers came through.
Now, before we get into how the stats aren’t great, and the fact that the game was actually pretty ugly, it’s best to take stock of the importance of the win. This didn’t boost Missouri back into the 30s in KenPom, it didn’t reverse everything the program endured over the last three games, but it allowed the program to reset.
A few weeks ago, Mizzou was 4-1 and sat at #32 in KenPom. The game against Temple was a projected win at that time, with the Tigers winning by 4 points. In KenPom's algorithm, home court advantage is worth about 3-5 points. So a 10 point win would have beaten their previous projections! Great news! Let’s watch highlights!
Everything is right with the world again!
Unfortunately, we can’t completely erase their last three losses, but at least Butler has stayed hot. Oklahoma is steady, and even Charleston Southern picked up another win. Mizzou beating Temple is a step in the right direction. How did it all work?
- Not three-point shooting: Mizzou’s offense is mostly predicated on spacing and playing four shooters around a skilled big. Their problem is the skilled big can’t seem to stay on the floor and the shooters have had a hard time making their shots. The good news is they limited Temple to just two made threes in 21 attempts for a paltry 9.5%. Turns out the key to a win for the Tigers was simply being less bad at making outside shots than their opponents.
- Temple is 24th in steals, so a clear focus coming into the game was to take the swipes and reaches in stride and control the ball. And the Tigers were really, really good at controlling the ball. Of their 13 turnovers, Jeremiah Tilmon was responsible for five of them, and only six were steals. BCI FTW!
So Mizzou didn’t turn the ball over at a high rate, forced the other team into turnovers, and made more threes than Temple did. The Tigers’ two biggest flaws to date have been 3-point shooting and non-steal turnovers. They had a 10% non-steal TO last night — an improvement — and essentially made one more three than they have during the season. I’m guessing that was Mark Smith’s very timely make with about 3 minutes to play.
Your Trifecta: Javon Pickett, Dru Smith, Xavier Pinson
On the season: Mark Smith 15 points, Jeremiah Tilmon 14 points, Dru Smith 11 points, Javon Pickett 6 points, Xavier Pinson 5 points, Mitchell Smith 3 points, Kobe Brown 2 points, Torrence Watson 1 point
When Cuonzo Martin needs to make a stand, he usually relies upon the energy and effort of guys he trusts to provide it. Javon Pickett isn’t the most skilled or most athletic on his team, but he’s the hardest worker. For large portions of the season, Pickett hasn’t fully seemed like himself, relegated to just being on the floor and providing good defense, and he's been stripped of his ability to do what he does best. Pickett is the ultimate opportunist. He’s great at being available on cuts, sneaking into holes on the defense, and just being there when the offense needs a pick-me-up. Last night, Martin got away from that a few times running plays to get Pickett a look — something he really doesn’t need to do — and that resulted in a higher usage than we’d like to see. But Pickett just did what he was needed to do the other times, and got to the basket and made it count. It was good to see.
Dru Smith had the kind of game which made me reformat the line box so it would fit his entire line. He hit every category.
During the three game losing streak, Xavier Pinson was MIA, but after Mark Smith’s three to give the Tigers a 5-point cushion, Pinson scored the next two buckets and called game.
Missouri got good minutes from Reed Nikko and Mitchell Smith (who started!), but neither can provide what Tilmon is capable of when he’s on the floor. But if it feels like Tilmon has regressed, it’s kind of because he has a little. Tilmon’s turnover rate is the highest of his career, but his fouls committed is actually down (a tick).
It’s still unreliable whether Tilmon will be able to play the minutes you need him to. The problem is that the offense is still massively better with him on the floor, and they need him to stay out of foul trouble. But it’s more than just the fouls for Tilmon; he becomes frustrated so easily and takes himself out of games on the mental side of things.
Having Tilmon at 29% on his Floor% isn’t a number which will have much success through most nights against high major opponents.
This win was badly needed
With 16:05 to play in the second half, Dru Smith converted a soft floater in the lane which gave Missouri a 39-33 lead. Over the next 4:20, the Owls went on a 12-0 run which gave them a 45-39 lead. This put the Tigers in a precarious position. Down 6 and bleeding on the road, the offense was struggling, and the win expectancy dropped to 18.6%.
Pickett 3, Pickett layup, and Missouri was back in business. Things were back and forth until a Temple fast break resulted in Dru Smith poking the ball free to Xavier Pinson, who hit the ball ahead to a wide open Tilmon who dunked the ball for a 1 point lead. The win expectancy then jumped from 44% to 54% and the Tigers were in control. Fortunately, the Owls were so bad at shooting threes on the night, they didn’t have much left other than to brick a few jump shots and foul Missouri.
With a week off until Mizzou faces Southern Illinois, it was important to get the victory if only for some semblance of confidence heading into the rest of conference play.