Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Jeremiah Tilmon in early foul trouble.
Missouri’s sophomore big-man got the whistle called on him for the first time just over two minutes in on what seemed to be a clean block (from my view in the press box). A little over five minutes passes, and an off-ball foul was called on Tilmon — his second of the game with 12:00 remaining in the first half.
About as unsurprisingly as Red Panda bringing the crowd to its feet at halftime by flipping countless bowls on top of her head with her feet (all while on a unicycle), the Crimson Tide began its dominance down low.
An 11-0 Alabama run ensued, made possible by easy lay-ins and extra opportunities offensively. Even when Cuonzo Martin subbed Tilmon back in the game with six minutes remaining, it was evident the fouls got to his head a little too much, as he didn’t even try to body up Alabama center Donta Hall on what ended up being an easy reverse layup to put the Tide up 26-16 with 5:48 remaining in the first.
Plays like that were par for the course against just about any Missouri defender in the paint, as Alabama out-rebounded (23-13) and out-scored the Tigers in the paint (20-6) in the first half en route to a 70-60 Crimson Tide victory Wednesday night.
This same narrative of Tilmon being absent from games due to early foul trouble has become an all too familiar one as of late, as he hadn’t played more than 13 minutes since Missouri’s Braggin’ Rights game against Illinos Dec. 22. He fouled out in each of the Tigers’ three games since then and logged 12, 9 and 13 minutes, respectively.
That just isn’t going to cut it with league play already three games underway. When Tilmon is on the court, Missouri is a far more dynamic team on both ends of the floor. He brings double-teams that lead to kick-out swing passes and open three’s, while his shot-blocking and rebounding abilities keep teams honest when attacking the paint.
When Tilmon is on the bench, however, Cuonzo Martin likes to play a smaller lineup or opt for the far-less athletic Reed Nikko. Both options are less than ideal for the Tigers, as the team seems to have hardly any rhythm both offensively and defensively.
Early on this season, it looked as if Tilmon was changing his heavily-fouling ways, or at least saving his fouls for the end of ballgames — he played over 20 minutes in seven of Missouri’s first eight, averaging 3.5 fouls per contest.
The sophomore still has a lot of learning to do, and it was encouraging to watch him have a solid second half during which he was foul-less. He dominated on the glass on both ends, played stout defense and looked fairly solid scoring the ball in the final 20 minutes, but his absence in the first half set the tone early on in this one, and the Tigers played from behind from then-on.
Missouri travels to College Station to square off with Texas A&M (7-9) at 2:30 p.m. CST Saturday.