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Study Hall: MSU 78, Mizzou 63

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A poetic and beautifully played first half devolved into a horror show for the Tigers. Let’s just rip this bandaid off.

study hall 2020

I’ve witnessed a lot of things in watching basketball over the years, but I’m hard-pressed to find another example of a game turning as abruptly as the meeting between Missouri and Mississippi State on Tuesday. It went like so:

  • First 7 minutes: Tied 13-13
  • Next 15 minutes: Mizzou 30, MSU 16
  • Next 15 minutes: MSU 38, Mizzou 11
  • Last 3 minutes: MSU 9, Mizzou 7

So, there was a 15- minute stretch where everything worked for Mizzou, a 15-minute stretch where everything worked for Mississippi State, and a dead for the remaining 10 minutes.

It’s obviously more complex than that, and it was certainly incredibly frustrating to watch. And as much as I expected weird outcomes during this weird season, I don’t think I could have projected anything like this. Now, let’s figure out where it went right, then where it went wrong.

Team Stats

MSU study hall 2021
  • A 64 possession game was right where I expected this to fall: Truth be told, Missouri was able to get out and run in the first half, but there were only 30 possessions at the half. MSU dictated tempo, even when Missouri was capitalizing on their opportunities.
  • I sent Matt a note at half time about Mizzou’s halftime PPP: They were sitting on about 1.3 points per possession. I liked their odds to win if they kept that up. They obviously didn’t, but if they had, they would have notched 83 points — enough to withstand the Bulldogs’ second-half rally.
  • As you know, I’m also not one to complain about officiating: That said, the foul discrepancy was wild. Both teams had seven in the first half. And in the second? Mizzou was called for 12, while State was whistled for just three. This contributed to the ever-important free-throw rate tilting toward State, because the Tigers only got to the line 6 times. They’re capable of manufacturing points. Even after this game, the Tigers free-throw rate still ranks 32nd nationally, according to KenPom. But one of the best ways to stem the tide of a run is to get to the charity stripe. Stop the clock, score points, calm people down. But all of Mizzou’s attempts came in the first half. For a team averaging 23 free throws per game, that’s a noticeable stat.
  • They also got absolutely killed on the glass: That’s not something you often see from a Martin coached team. But Ben Howland has probably the one roster built do it. They play two traditional bigs in nearly every lineup, while Mizzou’s only answer is to turn to Mitchell Smith over Kobe Brown.

Player Stats

Your Trifecta: Tilly, X, Dru

msu study hall 2021

Good takeaways? Tilmon has figured something out. In the past, he’s really struggled against Ado, but he was terrific Tuesday. Tilmon’s third foul was an atrocious call, because he was pushed as he was setting up his screen and ran into the defender. That push was vital, because it took Mizzou’s most-consistent offensive weapon out of the game by the next play down the court.

As Tilmon stepped out to run interference on a ball screen — something they’d let go all night — he was whistled for his fourth foul. But a line of 16 points and 6 rebounds is something you will take most every day from Tilmon.

Missouri’s acute problem IS where it turns after Tilmon and Pinson. Dru Smith came in third in the trifecta, and he felt largely nonexistent. There were a few answers during MSU’s run, but it wasn’t enough. Out of Mark Smith, Kobe Brown, Mitchell Smith and Javon Pickett, someone needed to answer the bell for Missouri during State’s run and help keep the Tigers above the water line. Nobody did.

Pickett came out with seven quick points and promptly disappeared as well. What could’ve turned into a Pickett night, turned into an early blip.

MSU study hall 2021

So, our consistent theme is simple: Xavier Pinson is good, Jeremiah Tilmon is really good, but nobody else gave Cuonzo Martin enough to put them over the top.

At 16:46 in the second half, Pinson picked up his third foul, just 30 seconds after picking up his second foul. Martin turned to his bench, parking the junior combo guard for almost six minutes. When he came back in at the 11:01 mark Mizzou was clinging to a 50-48 lead. With Tilmon and Pinson reunited, MU fought the Bulldogs to draw, but that changed after Tilmon earned his fourth whistle at the 8:17 mark. Relying on the front court of Mitchell Smith and Parker Braun, the Tigers saw the Bulldogs go on a 7-0 spurt to open up a 60-52 lead. That proved a backbreaker.

Sans Pinson and Tilmon, and the pick-n-roll game in the half-court, MU’s offense sputtered. At the other end State didn’t miss or turn the ball over, drying up the Tigers chances to get the game into the open floor with run-outs.

It’s absurd how different the halves were. What’s even crazier is Mizzou made MSU make a fair amount of tough shots. It didn’t matter. D.J Stewart and Iverson Molinar were unreal, scoring 36 points, including knocking down 8 of 12 mid-range attempts, after halftime.

Tracing events back to a turning point like leads to Pinson’s third foul and Tilmon’s four.

Looking briefly at the bigger picture, is Missouri where they should be nearing the quarter pole of sec play? Win Saturday, and they’re on schedule. But hate to put this much pressure on beating LSU at home. Still, a win puts them at .500 in the standings and adds another potential Quadrant 1 win to the resume.

To do that, however, the Tigers need someone other than Pinson or Tilmon to step forward. I’m not sure what is the issue with Dru Smith’s right hand, but he’s clearly bothered by it. Mark Smith was Missouri’s best player for the first four games, and since he’s averaging just 7.6 points. What Mizzou can accomplish this year is largely dependent on a fairly thin margin of error among a group players providing production. Now, it’s just up to them to be a little more consistent.


True Shooting Percentage (TS%): Quite simply, this calculates a player’s shooting percentage while taking into account 2FG%, 3FG%, and FT%. The formula is Total Points / 2 * (FGA + (0.475+FTA)). The 0.475 is a Free Throw modifier. KenPomeroy and other College Basketball sites typically use 0.475, while the NBA typically uses 0.44. That’s basically what TS% is. A measure of scoring efficiency based on the number of points scored over the number of possessions in which they attempted to score, more here.

Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%): This is similar to TS%, but takes 3-point shooting more into account. The formula is FGM + (0.5 * 3PM) / FGA

So think of TS% as scoring efficiency, and eFG% as shooting efficiency, more here.

Expected Offensive Rebounds: Measured based upon the average rebounds a college basketball team gets on both the defensive and offensive end. This takes the overall number of missed shots (or shots available to be rebounded) and divides them by the number of offensive rebounds and compares them with the statistical average.

AdjGS: A take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds. It takes points, assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls into account to determine an individual’s “score” for a given game. The “adjustment” in Adjusted Game Score is simply matching the total game scores to the total points scored in the game, thereby redistributing the game’s points scored to those who had the biggest impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

Offensive Rating (ORtg): Similar to Adjusted game score, but this looks at how many points per possession a player would score if they were averaged over 100 possessions.

Usage%: This “estimates the % of team possessions a player consumes while on the floor” (via sports-reference.com/cbb). The usage of those possessions is determined via a formula using field goal and free throw attempts, offensive rebounds, assists and turnovers. The higher the number, the more prevalent a player is (good or bad) in a team’s offensive outcome.

Floor%: Via sports-reference.com/cbb: Floor % answers the question, “When a Player uses a possession, what is the probability that his team scores at least 1 point?”. The higher the Floor%, the more frequently the team probably scores when the given player is involved.

Touches/Possession: Using field goal attempts, free throw attempts, assists and turnovers, touches attempt to estimate, “the number of times a player touched the ball in an attacking position on the floor.” Take the estimated touches and divide it by the estimated number of possessions for which a player was on the court, and you get a rough idea of how many times a player touched the ball in a given possession. For point guards, you’ll see the number in the 3-4 range. For shooting guards and wings, 2-3. For an offensively limited center, 1.30. You get the idea.

Anyway, using the Touches figure, we can estimate the percentage of time a player “in an attacking position” passes, shoots, turns the ball over, or gets fouled.