Since Missouri was eliminated from the SEC Tournament on Thursday and didn’t have another game to prepare for on Friday, it gave me a little time to let some of yesterday’s pieces breathe and not rush Study Hall up. It also gave me a chance to come up with something to actually say in discussing one of the most easy-to-explain losses of the season.
That’s the good news. The bad news: I didn’t really come up with anything. When your good players miss shots they usually make, it’s hard to win.
This game was easy to describe, but don’t mistake that for saying it was a normal Mizzou game in any way.
- For starters, Mizzou handily won the ball-handling battle. The Tigers had only 10 assists (a by-product of missing quite a few would’ve-been-an-assist shots) but turned the ball over just seven times to Georgia’s eight ... and somehow Georgia had only six assists itself. Weird.
- Rebounding was a wash. Georgia’s biggest offensive strength is grabbing second-chance opportunities, and Missouri kept the Dawgs from doing that. Granted, the Tigers were also kept off the offensive glass themselves, which was disappointing considering the height Michael Porter Jr. added to the equation, but if you win what is normally your biggest weakness (ball-handling) and break even in one of your opponent’s biggest strengths ... that gives you a very good chance of winning the game. Especially when...
- Shooting was nearly a wash, too. Mizzou was far worse than normal in terms of putting the ball in the basket, but UGA’s True Shooting % was barely any better. Alas, the difference in this game ended up being made by the fourth factor: fouls.
- Mizzou committed 25 fouls to Georgia’s 17. The Dawgs attempted 20 free throws to Missouri’s 12 and made 13 to Mizzou’s eight. WIth the other factors falling the way they did, that was the deciding factor.
As Sam mentioned, this game was called the way Georgia wanted it to be called. Mizzou kept the Dawgs off the glass somewhat, but Yante Maten’s ability to draw contact (he had 10 of Georgia’s 20 free throw attempts) both gave the Dawgs some reliable offense and put the Tigers in crippling foul trouble. The three guys primarily matched up with Maten — Jeremiah Tilmon, Kevin Puryear, and Jontay Porter — ended up with 14 of Mizzou’s 25 fouls.
While it obviously isn’t the wildest thing in the world for Tilmon to end up in foul trouble, Puryear’s troubles were unique. This was only the third time all year that he fouled out and only the fifth time he reached even four fouls. And he did this in 20 minutes. Maten abused Puryear in terms of both production and initiating contact. And maybe that’s only fair considering a) the first Mizzou-UGA game was called more to Mizzou’s preference and b) Puryear (nine points and three rebounds in 28 minutes) fought Maten to a draw (nine and two in 22) the first time around. Maten had a point to prove (as did regression to the mean), and he succeeded.
Regardless, it was frustrating as hell to watch, especially combined with some of the shots Mizzou was missing. Georgia has a very good FG% defense and was definitely responsible for some of the misses. But there were some open-as-hell looks in there, even before the last shot of the game.
Your Trifecta: Jontay-MPJ-Tilmon
- Porter, Porter, and Tilmon: 66 minutes, 40 points on 33 shots, 49.5 Adj. GS points
- Kassius Robertson, Jordan Barnett, and Puryear: 86 minutes, 12 points on 21 shots, 0.5 Adj. GS points
Guh. Even with MPJ struggling from the floor, he was finding ways to contribute to the box score. (Among other things, he had zero turnovers and played exactly the calming role we hoped for in that regard.) Tilmon was, too, despite foul trouble, and Jontay was unbelievable for the third straight game. You get that combination out of your three star freshmen, and you should win every time.
At least this wasn’t Mizzou’s final game. It would have been absolutely gut-wrenching for this to have been Barnett’s and Robertson’s final game.
By the way, it’s impossible to see this trifecta and not at least momentarily ache for what could have been this year, isn’t it? As fun and incredible as it’s been seeing this team rebound from setback and adversity, watching MPJ, Jontay, and Tilmon would have been, at times, something else.
Floor% strikes again. Even while performing decently, MPJ and Tilmon didn’t hit 40% in Floor% (the percentage of your possessions that result in points), leaving Jontay to carry a huge load. He did a hell of a job, but apparently not quite enough of one.
Meanwhile, with so few assists to be found, nobody hit higher than 60% in the %Pass category. (Typically, a point guard-type figure will end up at 70% or higher.) If we didn’t watch the game, we could see that and think that MPJ’s return and high usage froze up the ball movement. And it probably did a bit. But again, you’ve got to make your assisted shots for them to become assists.