It’s hard to watch a game play out the way it did for Missouri yesterday. It felt nearly all day long they were one play away from making it a different game with a different outcome. For me there were basically a couple stretches where they needed to make something happen and didn’t.
From 8:29 to 6:17 in the first half, MSU went on a 9-2 run. But Mizzou fended it off enough by stringing a couple shots together and then forced a miss on a three. Down 27-22, Dru Smith streaked down the floor on a fast break and kicked it out to Javon Pickett. The pass was low and Pickett couldn’t handle it. The ball dribbled out of bounds. Mississippi State then came down on the next possession and hit a three pointer. They would eventually extend their lead to as many as 10 before Xavier Pinson hit a three with under a minute left to keep it in single digits.
Then the start of the second half was what I’d call less than ideal. In the first 8+ minutes, Missouri made just two field goals, attempted eight three pointers (making one), and scored just 6 points. The frustrating part of this stretch was it was when they should have made their move. MSU scored just two points in the first five minutes of action in the second half, and would finish the eight minutes stretch with a mere 8 points.
Faced with an opportunity to not only get back into the game but turn it all around, Mizzou’s offense was lethargic and settled for jump shots when they were having some success getting to the rim.
- The Bulldogs are more than happy to play Cuonzo Martin’s game: Limit possessions, play in the half court, and get highly efficient shots. Ben Howland and Martin have a lot in common with how they approach the game, only Howland’s roster is a little more advanced having been in Starkville a few more years. The possessions were even, the shooting was close, but MSU just 2FGA’d Mizzou to the win. Meanwhile Missouri attempted SEVENTEEN more 3’s than MSU.
- If it weren’t for the Tigers generating more attempts: This game could have gotten a whole lot worse. Mizzou had 15 offensive rebounds to the Bulldogs’ six. They were limiting their opponent’s looks — so it was basically a necessity that MSU shoot as well as they did — while getting a few more of their own. Mizzou took 13 more shots. They just weren’t as good at making them.
- Really I’m just impressed at Missouri’s ability to win just about every category: Except the shooting ones. Rebounding? Yep. Assists? Yep. Steals? Yep. Turnovers? Yes, even turnovers.
Missouri did everything they needed to do. Maybe their defense struggled too much in giving up 41 first half points, but they generated more attempts for themselves, didn’t turn the ball over, and out rebounded the bigger, more athletic team.
And lost. Because of 6-29 from behind the three point line. As we continue to say about College CBB? “Did you make your threes?”
Your Trifecta: Dru Smith, Reed Nikko, Xavier Pinson
On the season: Dru Smith 42 points, Mark Smith 23 points, Xavier Pinson 22 points, Kobe Brown 19 points, Javon Pickett 15 points, Jeremiah Tilmon 15 points, Mitchell Smith 15 points, Reed Nikko 13 points, Torrence Watson 6 points, Tray Jackson 3 points, Parker Braun 2 points, Axel Okongo 1 point
For several games, Missouri has been relying on high usage from Xavier Pinson and Dru Smith in order to buoy their previously dormant offense. It’s worked (mostly)! And I don’t want come off as ungrateful for their efforts, but they were a combined 8-20 from 2FG, 6-17 from 3FGA, and got the line just five times. They were able to generate 39 points on 37 shots which is less efficient than they’ve been combined. With that said... they weren’t the problem.
Javon Pickett played 26 minutes and attempted no two point shots. Kobe Brown attempted only one two in 23 minutes. Conversely, Missouri wasted really good offensive performances from Mitchell Smith, Reed Nikko and Jeremiah Tilmon (aside from a couple weird three point attempts).
When you look at such high usage numbers from Pinson and Dru Smith, and you also see the high numbers of minutes they’re compiling, it amounts to this: they need help. Missouri needed something from someone else. With any kind of contribution from the wing spot, Missouri might’ve pulled this game out.
Matt posted the sub patterns on twitter last night and here’s the key:
ROTATIONS | Kobe Brown had a rough day at combo forward, while Javon Pickett was rocky on the wing.— Matt Harris (@MattJHarris85) March 1, 2020
The Tigers got some traction from the pairing Mitchell Smith and Jeremiah Tilmon in the paint. Mitch fouling out with five minutes left squelched it. pic.twitter.com/e3ZVrv6bj2
There were 40 minutes from 4 different players: Torrence Watson, Kobe Brown, Javon Pickett, and Mark Smith. Those players combined to miss 10 shots, and if it weren’t for Mark’s assists and Watson’s one rebound, they’d all have netted a 0.0 game score or worse. With so little production from the wing position and otherwise solid work from the other four positions, it made the hole at the wing spot all the more glaring.
Two regular season games left
It’s officially March, and Missouri has just two games remaining. They’re projected to lose both. If they lose at Ole Miss, they fall back into the mix for a Wednesday game in the SEC tournament, and likely lose any remaining hope of making the NIT. Win and you get to 7 SEC wins and retain hope of finishing the season with eight conference wins.
There’s still a lot to play for, but in order for Missouri to get over the hump in Oxford they’re going to need either better more efficient play from Pinson and Dru Smith, or they’re going to need someone else to give them some offense.
Here are the rest of the results from yesterday’s SEC action:
- Kentucky 73, Auburn 66
- LSU 64, Texas A&M 50
- Tennessee 63, Florida 58
- Alabama 90, South Carolina 86
- Georgia 99, Arkansas 89
- Ole Miss 86, Vanderbilt 60
And the standings:
- Kentucky 14-2
- Auburn 11-5
- LSU 11-5
- Florida 10-6
- Mississippi State 10-6
- South Carolina 9-7
- Alabama 8-8
- Texas A&M 8-8
- Tennessee 8-8
- Missouri 6-10
- Arkansas 6-10
- Ole Miss 5-11
- Georgia 5-11
- Vanderbilt 1-15