I’m not always sure what is better when it comes to writing Study Hall. Diagnosing and discussing immediately after a game, or letting it settle in, looking at the numbers a day later and working through the process.
The loss to Alabama was disappointing. There’s no way around it. The Tigers flirted with a come back, getting to within 3 points multiple times in the second half, and even as late as 6:23 remaining, but could never put together the requisite stops or plays offensively to take the next step.
After trimming the lead to 71-68 and getting a defensive stop, Missouri’s next offensive possession led to a 14 foot Mark Smith jump shot, which was well defended. But outside of that shot, Missouri’s possessions down the stretch were actually good. I know it’s unpopular to say so, but Mizzou got the shots they needed. They missed:
- 5:53 - down 3, Xavier Pinson missed a layup
- 5:18 - down 5, Mark Smith missed an open 3-point shot
- 4:50 - down 7, Kobe Brown missed an open 3-point shot
- 3:45 - down 8, Mark Smith missed an open 3-point shot
- 2:56 - down 10, Dru Smith missed a runner
- 1:47 - down 10, Torrence Watson is called for a charge on a drive (!)
From there little mattered, the comeback, or any hope thereof, was put on ice. Missouri’s defense gave up enough points. Brown attempted to defend Petty with his hands down and Petty lining up a three to put the Tide up 8. Late rotations led to fouls which put Alabama on the line to extend their lead when Mizzou needed a stop.
Even though the final margin was 14, this game could have gone either way through a stretch there in the second half. Alabama was able to make the plays they needed down the stretch, boosted by their hot shooting in the first half. Alabama hit 11 threes in the first half, which gave them a seven point lead. It was enough to keep the Tigers at arms distance until they won control down the stretch.
- If Missouri was able to muster anything in the way of shooting this might have turned out differently, but the Tigers were 34% from 2FG, and 25% from 3FG, included in that was a pretty amazing 11-of-27 (40.7%) on layups and dunks. We know the Tigers struggle to shoot at times, but they were perfect from the line, and somehow couldn’t make layups and dunks.
- Poor shooting leads to a BCI loss. Thanks to only six assists, Mizzou actually did a good job taking care of the ball and forced Alabama into more turnovers,
- Another High Major opponent: And another game under a point per possession. Other than Mizzou’s absurd 1.37 ppp against Florida, the Tigers can’t seem to generate enough offense, and now are struggling enough on the defensive side of the ball to leave them in a bind.
Your Trifecta: Dru Smith, Kobe Brown, Xavier Pinson
On the season: Dru Smith 26 points, Mark Smith 21 points, Jeremiah Tilmon 15 points, Javon Pickett 12 points, Kobe Brown 12 points, Mitchell Smith 6 points, Xavier Pinson 6 points, Torrence Watson 3 points, Tray Jackson 2 points, Reed Nikko 1 point, Parker Braun 1 point
Free throw shooting really boosted these numbers overall, but what a rough day for Javon Pickett. Dave Matter had a salient point, and one noted in this space before:
Mizzou 5-0 when Pickett is in double figures, including its three best wins: Florida, Illinois, Temple— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) January 18, 2020
Mizzou 4-8 when he's scoreless or in single digits. Scoreless vs. Butler, Xavier, Alabama
Pickett is an important player on this roster as evident by these stats. But that he’s as important as he is can also be part of the problem with the roster overall. Alabama won because John Petty and Kira Lewis made plays when they were needed. Missouri’s playmakers sputtered.
The offensive game plan was a good one. They attacked the rim, got Alabama into foul trouble and got to the free throw line. They were able to limit turnovers and generate pretty good shots overall.
There seems to be a thought going around that Missouri doesn’t run good offense. They were able to get to the rim for 27 layups and dunks. If they’d have been average in that category against Bama, that would have generated 31 points instead of 22. From the three point line Mizzou scored 0.75 points per shot, instead of their average 0.978. The difference was 15 points instead of 19.5 points. Missouri was basically an average shooting day from a virtually tied game. The good free throw shooting went to waste.
Missouri has now lost four of their first five games in SEC play.
The average KenPom rank for those five games is 37. The average rank of their next five opponents is... 104. Yes, there is some validity to the Tigers’ losses being against good teams, and we’ve always known these games would be a tough stretch.
I’ve always espoused a bit of the Mike Martz approach to coaching, even if he gave it a stupid name. The 2001 Rams had a weird saying about ‘Max Q’ which was a NASA term essentially meaning all the parts are working to their best all at once. The idea is nice, but in reality it’s more about just playing your best. Mizzou hasn’t been playing their best and it’s why they’ve continued their fall in KenPom. Getting wins over the next five games will be a positive step for this team, but they need to start playing better on both sides of the ball and beating their existing efficiency marks to feel like they’re really making progress.