Winning is always more fun than the alternative, even when it’s not the prettiest win.
On Tuesday, Missouri didn’t play their best game. Coming off the Auburn win and their solid play against LSU, there was some initial hope maybe they could keep momentum going. But Ole Miss was also playing better, so who knew how it was going to go.
As it was, both teams didn’t really play all that well. It wasn’t the most crisp game, but Missouri was able to win by being just slightly better across the board.
- If you want probably the most important stat of the day: I’m taking turnovers/TORate. Mizzou turned the ball over 12 times, Ole Miss had 3 more. With each team hovering around 1.0 points per possession, simply turning the ball over 3 more times and losing by 3 points is about all you needed to know. Take care of the ball, kids.
- Missouri is gaining a bit of a reputation as a good free throw shooting team: Converting 8 of their final 8 put the pressure on Ole Miss to make the plays to get the game tied. They nearly did it too. I grimaced when noted 3-point sniper Khadim Sy buried a three with 37 seconds left, I lurched a bit when a foul was called on Javon Pickett 21 seconds later. But Dru Smith and Xavier Pinson kept the train rolling. Mizzou missed four free throws all night, 1 each from Dru and X, and a pair from Parker Braun.
When I say things were pretty even... Ole Miss was +6 from 2FG, Mizzou was +9 from 3FG, they were even from the FT line. Mizzou was +1 in assists, +2 in Offensive rebounds, they were even in steals. It’s nearly comical at how close all of these stat lines are.
Your Trifecta: Xavier Pinson, Dru Smith, Parker Braun
On the season: Dru Smith 38 points, Mark Smith 23 points, Xavier Pinson 18 points, Kobe Brown 16 points, Javon Pickett 15 points, Jeremiah Tilmon 15 points, Mitchell Smith 13 points, Reed Nikko 8 points, Torrence Watson 6 points, Tray Jackson 3 points, Parker Braun 2 points, Axel Okongo 1 point
So, X. His play the last two games has been ridiculous. 58 minutes, 60 points, 13-18 from 2FG, 6-7 from 3FG, 16-19 from FT, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 7 turnovers. The TOs got a bit inflated against Auburn, but outside of that his offensive game has been nearly perfect. Really apart from his technical in the first half — which landed him on the bench following another foul shortly thereafter — Pinson has been playing as good as you could possibly hope he could play. Again showing all of us how tantalizing his ceiling can be.
I don’t know how long this run with X will last, but we’ll ride it as long as it does. And I don’t say that to diminish X, quite the opposite. No player is capable of sustaining the absurd level of production he’s had over the last two games.
Pinson’s absurd GameScore per minute is as good as any Tiger since Jordan Geist's ridiculous line against Georgia in the SEC tournament last year. Here’s that game if you wanna re-live some Geistyness.
When I say Mizzou didn’t play all that well... the rest is there. Dru was solid, but didn’t play his best. He wasn’t as efficient from 2FG as we’ve seen him. Meanwhile, Cuonzo Martin turned to Parker Braun for a jolt, and he got one.
Parker is interesting since guys who flash are often beloved by fan bases. Xavier was a guy like that last year, the same with Tray Jackson at times this year. But Parker has been the underlying name nearly all season. Why? Well, because he plays with a calm demeanor, has some springs in his legs, and is pretty good at making the splash plays.
Here’s another thing about the matchups, Ole Miss is a solid matchup for Braun. He’s a skilled and athletic four man at this point. He’s seen minutes at the five out of necessity, but he’s neither big enough nor strong enough to play there at this point. So facing teams with legitimate post guys like Reggie Perry, Nick Richards, Kerry Blackshear, or Josh Nebo, is going to be a struggle for Braun in that regard. But he is getting better, and I think there is a role for him going forward.
He’s going to need to be tougher and more physical on the glass and play with a level of ferocity that Mitchell Smith has found if he wants that role to be more consistent. And I do think he, and Jackson, and Brown can all co-exist. If anything they complement each other in different ways (I still think Tray needs to become the star though... he’s bursting with potential).
So Mizzou has won 3 of 4, now what?
There are five games remaining, two games at home and three on the road. Here’s the kicker— only one of those games is an expected win according to KenPom. I know we’re excited about how things have gone recently, but it’s still a tough road ahead. As Missouri’s recent victims (Auburn lost last night at Georgia, LSU has lost two in a row, and Saturday’s opponent Arkansas is on a five game losing streak) can attest, winning in the SEC is hard.
I think the goal should be to win your home games and beat Vanderbilt, that gets you to eight wins in league play. After starting 2-7, finishing 8-10 would be pretty danged solid. Anything above that be thankful for.
Here are the rest of the results from the early week SEC action:
- Kentucky 79, LSU 76
- Florida 73, Arkansas 59
- Georgia 65, Auburn 55
- Mississippi State 79, South Carolina 76
- Tennessee 65, Vanderbilt 61
- Texas A&M 74, Alabama 68
And the standings:
- Kentucky 11-2
- Auburn 9-4
- LSU 9-4
- Florida 9-4
- South Carolina 8-5
- Mississippi State 8-5
- Tennessee 7-6
- Texas A&M 7-6
- Alabama 6-7
- Missouri 5-8
- Arkansas 4-9
- Ole Miss 4-9
- Georgia 3-10
- Vanderbilt 1-12