Monday’s opening night victory against Division-I newcomer Southern Indiana taught the Missouri Tigers a lot about their men’s basketball program, which features a plethora of new talent coming together for the first time.
The result, although somewhat worrisome to few, offered the first opportunity for Tiger fans to see how their beloved team responded to adversity. Luckily for Mizzou, it’s highly unlikely a team will shoot 14-17 from beyond the arc in a half again. But regardless of what lies ahead, the Tigers added their first tally in the win column.
Mizzou head coach Dennis Gates was joined by guards DeAndre Gholston, Nick Honor and Tre Gomillion to meet with the media on Wednesday to discuss Monday’s result and preview the team’s next game against Penn on Friday.
Although hectic, Southern Indiana’s late-game flurry prepared the Tigers for the future
Despite a near meltdown for Mizzou, Southern Indiana’s scorching-hot offense gave the Tigers a glimpse of what craziness can ensue on the court in college basketball. More importantly though, the game taught Gates about the program itself and where they already stand.
“No one pointed a finger at (one) another,” Gates said. “No one blamed one person. It’s a team dynamic and you want to see if that type of thing, or culture, exists.”
For a group composed primarily of transfers, Gates has emphasized the importance of family as well as the team’s eight core values — friendship, love, accountability, trust, discipline, enthusiasm, toughness and unselfishness — to establish a cohesive unit. Already, those points of emphasis are shining through their play.
“We’re tougher than we thought,” Gholston said when asked about what he learned about the team. “We kind of stuck through it (and) fought through it, some bad moments happened... We stayed together. That’s one of our biggest things as a team, trying to stay connected.”
The bond between teammates will only grow from opening night, but the challenges that come with that growth will reemerge in less than 72 hours when the Tigers welcome Penn to town.
Assist-to-Turnover Ratio will be an indicator of success
“To continue to have a positive assist-to-turnover ratio.”
That’s the main takeaway Gates emphasized when asked what he hopes Mizzou carries with them into Friday.
The Tigers tallied 20 assists to 11 turnovers in the victory over Southern Indiana, coming up just short of Gates’ preferred goal of a 2-to-1 ratio. However, for the team’s first game of the season, the statistics displayed how Mizzou already showcases an unselfish and disciplined team.
Part of that early season success comes down to the players Gates targeted.
“You want to keep a 2-to-1 turnover ratio, but we’ve recruited that,” Gates said. “Sean East II has had a 2-to-1 rate his entire career, Nick Honor, the same. We have guards who are able to distribute but also score. Guys that are going to take care of the ball.”
Having those pieces in place gives Gates and the rest of Mizzou’s coaching staff the confidence that, when counted upon, the Tigers can meet those expectations. Establishing that level of success so early into the season give indications that the Tigers are trending in the right direction in this department, boding well for the future.
Penn’s defense will provide early season challenge
While most Mizzou fans will not look at Penn as a game in which the Tigers should be tested, the Quakers pose quite the challenge on the defensive end.
“The last couple of years they’ve had is tremendous,” Gates said. “1-3-1 is never (an) easy defense to play against, but it’s something that our guys will be prepared for and have been working diligently to go against.”
Mizzou showcased its own 1-3-1 defense at times against Wash-U in the exhibition game, suggesting that the Tigers have studied the scheme and understand its impact. Even with that practice, however, the game itself will introduce Mizzou to a defense far from what they saw against Southern Indiana and what they will see in future games.
Not only will Penn challenge Mizzou with a 1-3-1, but the Quakers will likely switch up their defensive schemes several times throughout the game, forcing the Tigers to find their strength in each scheme and plan the best course of action. For Gates, this opportunity will provide yet another area for growth and development.
“I think the changing of defenses is something that we got to continue to identify and work at,” Gates said.
After scoring 97 points, Mizzou’s offense will be ready to take on the challenge against Penn. Until tipoff though, the Tigers will have to hope their practice translate into success on the court, a trait Mizzou fans are waiting to see from Gates and the new staff.