Admit it, there was never any point in this game where you felt comfortable enough with how it was going to envision Missouri winning.
I say this because, while I think Mizzou played well... they didn’t play THAT well. They were missing opportunities, and it felt like every time they kind of needed the shot to fall or to get a stop it just didn’t happen. Mizzou had 12 point leads multiple times in the first half, but they were never able to push it past there. They let LSU go on a 6-0 run in the remnants of the first half to go into the break only up 6 points. The dam felt close to breaking.
Then the second half, LSU immediately cut the lead and tied the game. But Mizzou, playing like their head coach, headstrong and stubborn, built the lead back up.
Each time they got out to an 8 point lead, the good guys just couldn’t make that next play.
Maybe it was the foul trouble, or the fact LSU shot a million free throws, but it never happened and the door was left open for a more talented team, playing at home, to sustain their comeback and win the game.
- Free throws, free throws, free throws: Here’s the funny thing about stats... by definition a single game is a variance. Mizzou is a team who hits over 75% of their free throws on the season and against LSU they made just 53% on 13 attempts. LSU is also a good FT shooting team at 77%, they clipped 85%. If Mizzou shoots their average (about 10 of 13), and LSU shoots their average (about 26 of 35), that’s a difference of 6 points. Flip the score six points and Missouri wins. But the bigger issue was the +22 attempts Missouri gave a good free throw shooting team.
- So close against a good team means you nitpick: But Missouri was 7-13 from 3 point range in the first half, and just 2-8 in the second. It really felt like there were several of those six misses where, if it falls, the game goes a different way. Mizzou had one of their better shooting games of the season and they really just needed one more to go down.
- Win BCI, Win Expected Rebounds, hit more threes, be efficient around the basket: this has to be a frustrating loss for the coaching staff.
In a lot of ways, this game reminded me of last year’s game against LSU. Mizzou was better prepared, played harder, and generally played better. But they were not as talented and LSU did what it needed to do to keep in the game for a long enough time.
Your Trifecta: Dru Smith, Reed Nikko, Xavier Pinson
On the season: Dru Smith 34 points, Mark Smith 23 points, Javon Pickett 15 points, Jeremiah Tilmon 15 points, Kobe Brown 15 points, Mitchell Smith 13 points, Xavier Pinson 12 points, Reed Nikko 8 points, Torrence Watson 6 points, Tray Jackson 3 points, Parker Braun 1 point, Axel Okongo 1 point
If your opinion of Dru Smith is anything but adoration, I’m not sure what to tell you. He was struggling and looked awful down the stretch but still fought and gave this team 37 minutes, 20 points and did his normal stat stuffing. Dru was awesome, and clearly hobbled.
LSU is a team virtually devoid of rim protection. Trendon Watford is their biggest presence, but he’s a modern combo forward. Emmitt Williams is an athletic post, but he’s about 6’7 on a good day. They have size, but they’re missing Kavell Bigby-Williams from last season who was capable of eating the glass and altering shots.
It’s because of this you have a guy like Reed Nikko capable of being such a force. Reed has been playing with a lot more consistency over the last few games, which has lessened the loss of Jeremiah Tilmon.
Credit also to Xavier Pinson, who I think played one of his cleaner games I remember him playing. He was more of a standout against Arkansas, but I prefer this performance... if only he’d have carried over his 3-point shooting from the Arkansas game. If he’s had just made one three, his line would’ve been: 12 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, and an ORtg over 115.
TRAY JACKSON THATS THE TWEET— ROCK M NATION (@RockMNation) February 12, 2020
Good night for the Tray Jackson stans. A few too many turnovers, but he’s so active he makes up for it.
Maybe it’s false hope in a season gone awry, but the last two games have felt like Mizzou is figuring out more about themselves.
They’re still struggling with fouls, and the shooting might dry up in an instant, but they’re attacking. They’ve taken the scout of the last two teams, digested it, and applied it with success. Cuonzo has also found a way to trim the rotation when he needs it. All while he seems to have found the trust in Tray Jackson.
While both Kobe Brown and Torrence Watson are slumping, they’ve been picked up by the play of Jackson, Javon Pickett, and Xavier Pinson.
It’s not a fix on the season, Mizzou still lost. But the steady and drastic tumble since the Florida game seems to have been stemmed just a bit. There are at least eight games left with seven regular season games and a guaranteed game in the SEC Tournament. Even without Mark Smith and Jeremiah Tilmon, arguably Mizzou’s two best players, there’s a steadying to the rotation and flow. It’s something Cuonzo Martin has been searching for all season.
Maybe that’s a sign of progress of hope moving forward, maybe it’s not.