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What Dennis Gates and Tamar Bates had to say prior to SEC Play

Words from Dennis Gates and Tamar Bates, who tallied 25 against Central Arkansas, prior to opening up conference play.

NCAA Basketball: Central Arkansas at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

After a up and down nonconference season, Missouri (8-5) heads into Southeastern Conference play looking to recapture or match the success it had last season that saw a fourth-place finish in the conference. On the eve of opening up SEC play against a 10-3 Georgia team, both Dennis Gates and Tamar Bates were made available to the media where they discussed the past and future for the 23-24 Tigers.

Dennis Gates

NCAA Basketball: Central Arkansas at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

What he liked from his team so far: “I look at it from this point. I think defensively when you can be a top 10 team in blocked shots, a top 50 team in steals, you still have nine plus makes from the three-point line there. We may not be averaging the same amount of points last year during this time. We were second in conference in overall points per game. Our point production has gone down but our defense has gone up in certain areas, which is something I’m excited about.”

The difference of SEC play this year compared to 2023: “I think it’s a different landscape of teams meaning last year we saw a top team in Alabama sustain their run. This season anybody can win it.”

On Sean East II’s improvement: “I believe at this point Sean East is the most improved player in our conference. I’ll be curious to see if that’s an award that can one day be a part of our conference postseason awards.”

Positives from the Central Arkansas game: “I saw our team score a lot in the paint. I saw us turn down some shots and take some other shots that led us to the free throw line.”

On what he wants this team to improve on: “On of the disappointments for me when I look at our non-conference schedule is that our opponents shot way more free throws than us. I wish I can control the whistle, but I can’t and our guys got to figure out ways to draw fouls in a healthy way.”

On Noah Carter and Connor Vanover: “Those guys in their career have shot over 30% from three and in this small sample size they’re shooting a less percentage. I want to encourage them to continue to shoot it because that’s what they’ve done in their four- or five-year careers and they’re better shooters than their percentages say, so I look for those guys to try and get out of funk that they’re in and try to find that rhythm.”

What challenges this Georgia team presents: “They take care of the basketball at a tremendous rate. Being able to have a positive-to-assist turnover ratio is tremendous. Being able to shoot the ball at the free throw line, they’re averaging 17-18 free throws a game.”

“(Jabri) Abdur-Rahim is shooting the ball at a high level, one of the better shooters in our conference. We just have to make sure that we look at it from that standpoint, when we see the challenges that they cause transition wise. They’ll get out in the open court because those guards do make a lot of great plays. They have a three-ball handling system, no different than us and they’ve done a good job.”

On Georgia coach Mike White: “I think Coach White has done a great job putting this team together. This is his second season at Georgia, but he’s a double-digit year guy in this conference so he knows the conference.

Tamar Bates

NCAA Basketball: Central Arkansas at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

On heading into SEC play: “It is a new season, and that’s going to require a new focus and a higher-level focus and we’ve had that since the Central Arkansas game and after that everyday we’ve been in practice. So we’re looking forward to SEC play and just see what we can do.”

On where he’s seen this team grow the most: “I would say just fighting through adversity. We saw when our back was against the wall and a lot of games, even the ones that we lost, we were down and we were always able to fight back and we never really quit.”

On what his approach has been after scoring in double-figures the past three games: Definitely attacking the basket more but I just feel like it’s more of a confidence thing and just the work that I’ve been able to put in and things that I’ve been able to learn just throughout games and actually having more experience.”

“Coach C.Y (Charlton Young), he’s on me like non-stop in a healthy way.”

On what he took away from the Central Arkansas game: “We had a really good rebounding game against Central Arkansas so I would want us to one just continue to crash the offensive glass and block out and limit Georgia to one shot.”

“We didn’t make as many three’s but the three’s that we took were good ones but we scored a lot in the paint and attacked the paint violently.”

On how this team can be more successful from behind the arc: “Just taking better shots. I don’t feel like were taking bad ones, just taking the right three’s, the inside out three’s that transition to wide open one’s and not really forcing ones that are contested.”