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Notebook: Missouri prepares for SEC Tournament

Missouri departs for Nashville to face Texas A&M in the quarterfinals Thursday evening

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri’s struggles to knock down shots have have been painfully apparent this season, perhaps no more so than in the first half against Alabama on Saturday. Missouri went ohfer from deep in the first half, missing all 12 shots and scoring only 21 total points in the frame.

The second half was much better, with Mitchell Smith and Mark Smith combining to knock down five three pointers, helping carry Missouri to a much needed 19 point win over the Crimson Tide.

When the team takes the floor in Nashville, waiting until the second half against Texas A&M to hit shots will not be an ideal winning strategy.

“In the SEC Tournament, we’re going to have to knock down open shots. They can’t be late in the second half like that (against Alabama),” said Mark Smith, who added that being fully healthy and getting into a rhythm against Alabama at the end was a major confidence booster.

“We need to really focus on being shot ready.” For Smith, who takes a large amount of shots out of a catch-and-shoot stance, being shot ready is a vital part of his playing style.

Missouri will need those shots, as it made just 16-62 combined threes in the two matchups against the Aggies earlier this season.

It wasn’t just Mark who emphasized the need to be shot ready. Point guard Dru Smith lamented during the media session that he could have been better at being shot ready when the ball hit his hands this season, and that it’s an aspect of his game he plans to work on.

“Honestly, I think I’ve done a bad job of being shot ready this year,” he said. “When I haven’t had the ball in my hands, I kind of get caught watching. I think just taking that next step and being more efficient is important.”

Rebounding Efficiency

In the first matchup against the Aggies, Missouri put together a nice performance on the boards, out-rebounding the Aggies and holding Josh Neebo to just five rebounds.

The second matchup in College Station was just a disaster.

Missouri was out-rebounded 49-30. In fact, Texas A&M had more offensive rebounds (23) than Missouri had defensive rebounds (19).

It’s highly unlikely that such a catastrophe on the boards repeats itself in terms of numerical gaps, but Josh Neebo has made life difficult for Aggie opponents this season.

Winning the battle on the boards starts with attacking him.

“Neebo is a great player,” Mitchell Smith said. “We’ve got to make it uncomfortable for him. You’ve got to be tough with this team.”

If Texas A&M approaches 20 offensive rebounds again, it’s almost a certainty that Missouri will not make it to the weekend in Nashville. Controlling the boards is step one to preventing the Aggies from completing a three game sweep this year.

SEC Awards shutout

Cuonzo Martin was not surprised that Dru Smith did not make either All-SEC team, and not because of any flaw the junior may have had.

“If you evaluate in the league, from top to bottom, the production of each individual guy, then he’s a first team guy no question,” Martin said.

Basically, Smith and the rest of the league were not being judged solely on their productivity and value as players, or his name would be at the top of the list with the best players in the conference.

“I think it’s unfortunate. When guys work hard, you like to reward their work.”

Smith was not selected for the all-defensive team either, perhaps a bit of a surprising omission, given his reputation for having some of the best defensive hands in the conference. With 2.1 steals per game, he led the league in the category.

Xavier Pinson was not selected to any teams either, although Martin singled him out for praise for the way he’s performed down the stretch.

Despite the disappointing omissions, the team has bigger things on its mind than being on the list for regular season awards.

“It’s not something you lose sleep over,” Martin said.