You know, I used to enjoy watching Mike Anderson's teams. I suspect that might have something to do with the fact that they used to wear black and gold, but whether it's revisionist memory or the Hogs taking advantage of permissive SEC officiating, I never remembered our teams getting away with the kind of physical play that Arkansas displayed last night. Regardless, the outcome was pretty much what you'd expect from this Mizzou team playing at Bud Walton. On to the numbers!
Our leading scorer last night scored 13 points. Both of them, in fact. Both Jonathan Williams III and Tramaine Isabell put 13 points on the board. The number alone is disappointing from JW3 and impressive from Isabell, but the rest of the picture tells an even more disparate story. Williams scored his 13 on 4-11 (36%) shooting, and committed 8 turnovers. Isabell scored his on 5-9 shooting (55%), committed only 3 turnovers, and added 3 assists. Despite JW3's relative inconsistency in conference play, I've come to take him for granted - he's generally pretty reliable with the ball, only averaging 2.8 turnovers per game, and is typically pretty efficient. But even good players have bad days, and JW3 was off his game yesterday.
And, yes, it has to be said, having him bring the ball up to break the press backfired. JW3's a good ballhandler for his size, but he couldn't handle the Arkansas pressure last night.
To keep this number from getting too Debby Downer, I'd also like to say that Isabell's performance is exactly the kind of effort you hope to see from a guy coming off a suspension. He's been sitting for a long time, and it would have been easy for him to jog it out and claim rust (and, when he missed the layup on a wide-open breakaway early in the game, I thought rust may be a serious issue). But he hit shots, made some good defensive plays, and had an impressive spinning drive to the hoop that set JW3 up for an easy bucket. We desperately needed a second ballhandler on offense, and while he's not the athlete that Wes Clark is, Isabell did his best to answer.
13 is also the difference between what Michael Qualls scored at Mizzou Arena and what he scored last night at Bud Walton. Essentially, Qualls took two more 3 pointers, and hit 4 more of them, going 4-7 last night instead of the 0-5 he went at Mizzou Arena. Qualls is a guy who will kill you if he gets hot, and, well, he got hot. Without sneaky-athletic perimeter defender Wes Clark keeping him in check, Qualls got shots he liked, and hit them.
After getting improving performances out of Rosburg lately, Kim Anderson opted to start him over Keanau Post. Neither player responded well, and the two combined to contribute only 6 points and 3 rebounds. Part of that is the quality of Arkansas's frontcourt - especially Bobby Portis, whose ability to protect the rim obviously affected Rosburg - but it's still a letdown. On the bright side, Rosburg hit 100% of his free throws!
Arkansas had a 15-0 run midway through the first half ... and won by 15.— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) February 19, 2015
I'm including this because Fullback told me to. Just kidding, it's actually because 15 is the number that pretty well sums it up. Most of us remember the recipe for a winning Mike Anderson team, and a big part of that is scoring in spurts. The Hogs went on a tear in the first half to open up a big lead, and Missouri never quite recovered, even though they fought hard to the end of the game.
I like to end things on a high note, so let's talk about the freshmen. Freshmen contributed 48 of Missouri's 69 points last night. Isabell had 13, Gant and Gill-Caesar had 11, Allen had 9, and Wright had 4. Gant and Gill-Caesar had their most aggressive nights attacking the rim since nonconference play, and were rewarded for it. Gant more or less singlehandedly stopped the first half Arkansas run with a pair of jumpers and a layup with foul (with an Allen 3 mixed in for good measure). Allen had a nice night, too, contributing a prototypical "glue guy" stat line - 9 points on 3-3 shooting and 2-2 from the free throw line, and a couple assists to boot. Wright was in foul trouble in the first half, but still managed to kick in 4 points and a couple assists.
It's not hard to squint and see what this team will be capable of in a year or two. Last night, a lot of guys with only 1 year of experience contributed in big ways, and, even though it's a loss, and even though we're all sick of moral victories, that's encouraging. If HCKA can keep everybody at Mizzou, and lock a couple of these guys in the weight room this offseason, the future looks bright.
In the end, this is what a good Mike Anderson team does (especially at home). They crushed us in the ball control battle, which is standard, and also beat us on the boards. Add to that hot shooting from Michael Qualls (and the kind of home cooking, no-hand-checks-called officiating that Mike Anderson teams love), and the result is unsurprising. This team has struggled with ball control in the best of circumstances this year, but without Wes Clark, at Arkansas? It was going to be rough no matter what.