I’m not sure how to begin here.
If you follow me on twitter and engaged last night early on in the second half, you might’ve seen me disparage our fair Tigers a bit. I was venting a bit, frustrated by another lackluster effort in a winnable game. I’m not entirely sure anything I said was incorrect, either. I realize in hindsight, following a furious comeback, the comments seem out of line.
But if you’re searching for consistency or some version of progress, you won’t find it here.
Last night was fun. With 13:33 to play, Georgia Bulldogs star guard Anthony Edwards buried a three to give him 21 points. The Missouri defense seemed helpless to stop him as he had gotten just about whatever he wanted to that point in the game. I’m not sure what it was, but something changed after that basket from Edwards.
Missouri went on a 27-6 run over the next 10 minutes and 15 seconds of game play to take a one point lead on a Reed Nikko free throw with 2:20 to play. The teams would exchange a few baskets before Nikko blocked Edwards on a layup attempt. And somehow it looked like Missouri was going to hold on.
The Highlights ⤵️#ToTheFinishLine pic.twitter.com/4MCSZ2y4PM— Mizzou Hoops (@MizzouHoops) January 29, 2020
I’m not trying to rain on any parades when I say this, but I think I know less about this team than when we started the game last night. And even that wasn’t a whole lot. The recipe for success for this team seems to be a collective ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
So let’s see how they won THIS game, shall we?
This was a tale of two different teams. Team A, Missouri for the first 27 minutes, and team B, Missouri for the next 13. And even then, it’s easy to forget Mizzou was out in front 8-2 at the start of the game. The possessions were actually 69.465, so we round down. Quick and dirty math says the final 13 minutes allowed for 22 possessions, the first 27 allowed for 47 (basically averaging 1.725 possessions per minute). With that said...
- Mizzou is a team prone to turning the ball over, so seeing a turnover rate just a hair over 17 is good, but even better...Team A had 11 turnovers, Team B had just one turnover. So Team B’s TOR% would have been 4.5%. For a team which can struggles to score the ball offensively, it helps to give yourself a chance. 1.5 points per possession, a 4.5% turnover rate.
- Three point shooting has become ridiculously important in College Basketball (as well as the NBA, but I think the shooting at that level is less prone to wild swings). Georgia hit 5 of 10 in the first half, and just 1 of 11 in the second. Missouri actually hit 7 of 17 in the first half (it really kind of saved them) and took just 7 in the second half, making three. So hit a higher percentage, and down the stretch take fewer shots from deep seems like a better recipe.
- Mizzou only shot 43% from 2FG, but considering how poorly they shot in the first half, that’s a heck of a recovery. Matt did the math for us:
Huh, I wonder what the difference was for #Mizzou in the second half? pic.twitter.com/kCeD8MVRif— Matt Harris (@MattJHarris85) January 29, 2020
Basically a draw on the glass against a team who can’t rebound isn’t exactly something to crow about, but this isn’t what we’d consider a typical Cuonzo Martin team.
Your Trifecta: Reed Nikko, Xavier Pinson, Mitchell Smith
On the season: Dru Smith 29 points, Mark Smith 23 points, Jeremiah Tilmon 15 points, Kobe Brown 14 points, Javon Pickett 12 points, Mitchell Smith 8 points, Xavier Pinson 8 points, Torrence Watson 6 points, Reed Nikko 4 points, Tray Jackson 2 points, Parker Braun 1 point, Axel Okongo 1 point
There is no recipe for a Mizzou win. Reed Nikko with a +18.4 game score, 13 points, a couple blocks including one on a future NBA lottery pick to save the game? Sure, why not! Xavier Pinson returns from the grave he was put in after picking up a technical at West Virginia. He’s so hot and cold, but when good X shows up, he can be so impactful. And Mitchell Smith, poor guy improved his three point shooting on the season to 26% after a 3/5 performance last night.
Meanwhile, Mark Smith gave you nothing and sat out with what seems like a lower back injury in the second half. Torrence Watson forgot about the mop up time against WVU and went back to the inconsistent play and poor shooting we’ve seen most of the season. And Kobe Brown really struggled.
Dru Smith was Dru Smith. He’s pretty good.
Yeesh, Torrence Watson and Kobe Brown with zeroes for Floor%, and Mark Smith at 11%. Bleh.
Getting back to X. We might be able to start formulating what constitutes a good X game versus a bad X game. Last night he was very good, 43% usage (maybe a tick high), 40% Floor%, 4.1 touches, 24% pass (maybe a tick low), 32% shoot, 32% fouled, and just 12% turnover. Ideally, if he can find a line that looks like this:
35% usage, 40+% Floor, 3.3+ touches, 30% pass, 30% shoot, 30% fouled, 10% TO
X excels when he’s able to exploit matchups and attack the rim. Georgia was switching everything, which meant it was easy for him to find the right guy to take off the dribble.
Last year Mizzou was able to crush Georgia against the backboard, but without Tilmon and Nikko in foul trouble, they couldn’t find the right mix. Once Reed settled back in and Pinson got confident, Martin cut the fat from the rotation and stuck with what was working. And it’s obvious from the GameScore where those contributions were coming from. Nikko, Mitchell Smith, Javon Pickett, Dru Smith, and Xavier Pinson combined for a 73 GameScore. Meanwhile, Mark Smith, Torrence Watson, and Kobe Brown combined for -8.2.
You need a lot of things to go your way when you come back like Missouri did
Recently in my memories, I had the LSU game pop up from last year. If you remember, Missouri had the game well in hand, but Pinson had fouled out, Mark Smith was out, and Jordan Geist was the only ball handler left on the floor when LSU decided to press and come back from a 14 point deficit in the last few minutes.
Obviously the fall here is different, as LSU had less time and couldn’t afford a single thing to go against them. They got each call, each play broke their way. With 13 minutes to play, Missouri didn’t need perfect but they needed to get close. Georgia complied. They settled for jump shots, had six turnovers, and generally were a sieve defensively. When you force the action you get the benefit of the doubt, and there were several calls in the first half that went against Mizzou, where in the second half they went against Georgia. Missouri forced the action in the last 13 minutes and got the breaks. A questionable foul call here or there, but they also got two very close reviewed calls go against them late and persevered.
There is no recipe for success with this team other than they need at least 3-4 guys to be playing well to win. Most nights it’s been one or two. But with a road trip to South Carolina this weekend, it would be nice if the Tigers could find that consistency bug that’s plagued them and give us more of Team B, instead of having to watch more of Team A.