When the Rally For Rhyan game was announced I looked at the opponent and breathed a sigh of relief. When it comes to finding matchups in the league, at least in their current versions Vanderbilt might be one of the best matchups for Missouri.
They don’t turn you over, are fairly soft defensively, and currently they’re struggling to shoot the basketball. Missouri on the other hand defends and rebounds well enough, and they’re capable of generating good offense when they’re not kicking the ball around.
Then coming into this particular game, Mizzou was 3-0 in these Rally For Rhyan games and you don’t want to end that streak. Following the loss to Auburn, Missouri was mired in their second three game losing streak and looking for a way out. Without Mark Smith for another night the Tigers were fortunate to be facing an opponent like Vanderbilt. I went in on the Commodores after the game and I seriously question the direction Bryce Drew has them headed in. He’s rebuilding sure, he’s recruiting well, but they look lost offensively and they don’t defend. At least when you watch Missouri you see them playing with purpose, even when they aren’t particularly playing well.
Regardless, Missouri won. Let’s see how they did it.
- I believe a +6.3 expected rebound margin is what you call owning the glass: the raw numbers are just as impressive, with Missouri limiting Vandy to just 2 offensive rebounds. On 26 missed shots that’s 7.6% offensive rebound rate. As good as other facets of the game went, this was absolutely the deciding factor as the Commodores were only able to attempt 46 shots in a decently placed game. Sure they got to the line and converted there, but they got nothing off their misses.
- The Tigers without Mark Smith are BIZARRO world Tigers: They’re efficient around the rim (thanks to Tilmon staying on the floor longer) and not really shooting the three all that well. Smith shooting a high percentage with volume has kind of masked the fact other Tigers aren’t really shooting all that well. Kevin Puryear is scuffling to find his stroke and is just 3 for 15 in conference play, Javon Pickett is 2-for his last-15, and even Jordan Geist had a difficult night from deep (although he did hit a huge 3 late in the game). But they’re attacking the rim. Geist is getting into the lane and crashing defenses, Pickett has been more consistent on drives and even Torrence Watson had a drive and a layup. It’s weird.
With more 2FGA’s and fewer 3FGA’s Mizzou’s overall eFG and TS% have dipped. But if the defense holds and the Tigers get Mark Smith back it’ll probably be a good thing they’ve added the secondary dimension to the offense.
Your Trifecta: Jeremiah Tilmon, Jordan Geist, Torrence Watson
On the season: Jordan Geist 34 points, Mark Smith 25 points, Jeremiah Tilmon 25 points, Javon Pickett 12 points, Kevin Puryear 8 points, Xavier Pinson 6 points, Torrence Watson 6 points, Reed Nikko 2 points.
It’s become very easy to identify just how valuable Jeremiah Tilmon is. He’s figuring out how to play within his body, and another thing he’s starting to figure out is how to draw contact. The learning to play without fouling part usually comes sooner for young post guys, but the learning to draw contact and make enough movement to get a whistle is something which usually takes post guys much longer to develop. He’s still building it but you can see him absorb contact and show the officials he’s being hit too. And honestly this has made a big difference in how he’s been officiated over the last few games.
We’re basically down to an eight man rotation minus Mark Smith. After some experimentation with K.J. Santos and not getting results Cuonzo Martin seems to be going back to Mitchell Smith for more extended minutes at the four, along with Kevin Puryear. And with Puryear really having a hard time finding his offense it was Smith. Smith doesn’t have the rebounding prowess but he’s been able to find a little offense and provide a few other plays like blocks and tipped passes to make up a difference.
If there’s been a bright spot the last few games it’s been Watson and Pinson. Pinson never really lacked for confidence but Watson often looked lost defensively. He’s moving with more decisiveness and seeing ball and man and that’s translating to his shotmaking as well. He’s capable, and so in Pinson. So it’s good they seem to be putting things together a little bit.
Look at those Floor%’s! 43%, 50%, 52%, 57%, 62%. Seeing the freshmen Watson and Pinson scoring the ball with consistency and both seem to have turned the corner defensively as well.
Aside from Ronnie Suggs 52% TORate, not having any primary or secondary ball handlers even in the 10% range is excellent. Puryear and Smith each eclipsed that but when the Tigers don't give away possessions they’re capable of handling valuable possessions and getting points.
In fact it felt like this was a game Mizzou was winning by more than they were for most of the game. Even when the 3s started to fall for Vandy and the lead dipped to as few as five points you can tell the nervousness from the crowd considering the LSU loss just last week was likely still dancing around in their head. But Mizzou always had a way of making enough plays to keep the Commodores at bay.
In the 1st half Vandy cut a 10 point lead to 2 which led to a Tilmon dunk. After taking a 14 point lead Vandy narrowed it to 3 and then Mitchell Smith his a three. Vandy narrowed it again to 5 then Torrence Watson hit a three, followed by a Geist three and that all but closed out the ball game.
Currently the Tigers are 92nd in KenPom, so they didn’t pick up much from the win. And up next is a road game against a Tennessee team who hasn’t lost since November 23rd, so dropping to 2-7 seems likely. But I feel like we’re seeing the program take its steps forward in small doses. Be competitive in Knoxville, then you have two home games and each are winnable.
One last stat of importance, Mizzou raised $55,000 for pediatric cancer research. On top of the value of the dollar, raising awareness, which the Loos family has done in earnest and without reward since learning their daughter Rhyan had cancer. They’ve continued on raising money and awareness since Rhyan was given a clean bill of health. And they’re spreading the good word through Mizzou and its players. Putting the name of a child with cancer on each players back makes the connection stronger as well.