Without Jeremiah Tilmon in foul trouble, Missouri fans were almost spoiled throughout the last eight games as the Mizzou offense had an outlet on the low block. Tilmon has averaged 29.5 minutes the past eight games (obviously subtracting his DNP against Texas A&M) and had seemingly figured out the officiating. But the crew at Ole Miss on Saturday weren’t to be deterred as they called Tilmon for his second foul with 12:39 to play in the first half.
The game was mostly uneven for both teams to that point, the score was 10-7 Rebels, offense was hard to come by, and the game was trending in precisely the kind of slow, methodical slop fest where Missouri could hang around in and grab a win. Then Tilmon left the floor, and the Rebels quickly jumped out to a 12-point lead. Martin took a risk and subbed Tilmon back in, and Mizzou was able to trim the margin to seven but removed him after the last media timeout of the 1st half and the Tigers trailed by nine at the half.
Couple the lack of Tilmon with a turning the ball 44 percent of the time in the first half and it hardly mattered that the Tigers were shooting well or had Mark Smith back. Putting up those numbers is what put Mizzou in a ditch they couldn’t escape — not even Jordan Geist playing out of his mind in the second half.
- What helped MU hang around? Pure domination on the glass: To be clear, Ole Miss isn’t a bad rebounding team, and Mizzou was a ridiculous plus-8.7 in expected rebound margin and plus-16 overall. The Rebels only mustered four offensive rebounds in a game where they were average (46.0 FG%) from the floor slightly above average (38%) from deep. The gameplan was simple: kill them on the glass, take care of the ball and give yourself some hope of a tough win on the road.
- The second part of that plan went poorly. Very poorly: This year’s version of the Tigers now own the top three spots on the list for the single-game turnover percentage in the KenPom era, which stretches back to 2002. Against Ole Miss, they had their worst game of the year. Posting a 37.5 turnover percentage is bad. Really bad. Only Reed Nikko and Ronnie Suggs were absolved in the turnover-fest. Xavier Pinson and Geist combined for nine turnovers, roughly 36 percent of the overall count. I mean, it’s just brutal to look at: Pinson 5, K.J. Santos 4, Geist 4, Mark Smith 3, Kevin Puryear 3, Javon Pickett 2, Tilmon 2, and Torrence Watson and Mitchell Smith each had one. And the Rebels are only the fourth best team in the SEC at forcing Turnovers.
- For the fourth time this year, MU wasted an excellent shooting night while kicking the ball around: This happened against Iowa State, Temple and the first meeting with Arkansas. Heck, you might also be tempted to toss in the meltdown to LSU. Offensively, the Tigers were good enough, and if they hit their season average of 21 percent, it would have resulted in just 14 turnovers. Put another way, MU would have had nine extra possessions and, a 1.27 PPS, potentially scored 11.4 points. They lost by 10.
Your Trifecta: Jordan Geist, Xavier Pinson, Javon Pickett
Seriously, where would this team be without Geist?
The turnover numbers were awful, but Missouri really needed more Watson, Smith and Puryear as well. Puryear had some tough early moments offensively with turnovers, and Martin seemed to go away from him. My only issue would be Santos and Mitchell Smith gave you even less. Santos somehow got 20 minutes and was just as bad as he’s been most of the year. Maybe Martin keeps hoping a long enough look will give him the confidence he needs to play a little better, or perhaps he’s seeing something in practice which isn’t materializing during the games. But either way on a day where not many played their best, Santos was far and away the biggest detriment on the roster.
Maybe it just goes to show how rough of a day everyone had when Pinson turned the ball over as many times as he did and still landed second in Adjusted GameScore.
The column detailing turnover percentage tells a little bit more of the story. Geist's overall numbers were woeful in that category, but when you factor in usage and minutes, his giveaways isn’t that bad. The same with Tilmon and Pinson. Overall, I think I’d be for some more four-guard lineups when Puryear isn’t on the floor. Make an attempt to split minutes with Puryear isn’t on the floor. Make an attempt to split minutes with Nikko and Tilmon and run Geist, Pinson, Smith, Watson, Pickett, and Suggs out there more. That’s a nine-man rotation where I think you’re really building something for the future.
Six games remain, and Missouri best-projected game comes at home against South Carolina, who is 8-4 in league play right now. There are still upsets on the table for the Tigers and games they can and maybe even should win.
Coming home next against Kentucky is just going to be really tough. The Wildcats are playing really well, and their only loss since the league opener was a home loss to LSU where a tip-in was clearly a goaltend. Maybe you can catch them napping a bit, but KenPom has this as a nine-point win for the Wildcats. Keep Tilmon on the floor, space the floor, hit jumpers, and mitigate the interior strength of the Cats, and you have a shot.