And to think, it all started so well.
During the first seven minutes on Wednesday, Missouri resembled a composed top-20 squad trying to set the agenda at Texas A&M. Kobe Brown made sure of that much, rattling off 10 of the Tigers’ first dozen points and capping his early barrage with a dunk off a press break.
Any optimism faded quickly after the second media timeout.
The Aggies spent the rest of the first half clobbering the Tigers, building a 21-point lead as MU slogged through its worst shooting performance of the season. Woeful jump shooting might be an unexpected and unwelcome development, but frustrating and familiar habits reared their head again on the defensive end. The Aggies excel at mashing opponents on the glass and earning trips to the charity stripe, and MU allowed them to do both. Meanwhile, missed 3-pointers — at one point, MU clanked 16 in a row — triggered secondary breaks for A&M.
The Aggies’ note-perfect scout had plenty to do with the Tigers’ frustrations.
When Mizzou spread the floor in five-out setups, the Aggies rotated quickly, ran shooters off the 3-point line, and forced them into drives that ended with contested shots at the rim. MU tried more organized sets, drawing its pinch and point series, but the Aggies sagged, occupied gaps, and trusted Henry Coleman III and Julius Marble to control the restricted area. And it didn’t help matters that Brown picked up his second foul with 8:39 until the break, watching the remainder of the half from the bench. A little more than two minutes later, D’Moi Hodge found himself in the same predicament.
By then, the Aggies had already ripped off an 11-0 run, and Hodge’s exit was the forerunner of another 10-0 scoring jag that pushed their lead to a 34-16. While Mizzou spent 11 minutes scouring for a bucket, it was more than willing to give A&M any opportunity to pull away.
For a fourth-straight game, the Tigers struggled to snatch defensive rebounds and are now eighth-worst nationally at keeping opponents off the offensive glass. Playing directly against the press, the Aggies often found Marble or Coleman for point-blank attempts on the back end. Tyrece Radford tracked down long rebounds and used them as outlet passes for the Aggies break. And Hayden Hefner strafed Missouri from beyond the arc.
However, the Aggies are generous spirits, and they did everything possible to hand this game back to Mizzou. After being so sure-handed, A&M committed a dozen turnovers in the first nine minutes of the second half. How many did MU cash in? Just five of them for 11 points. Still, the Aggies squandered enough possessions to let the Tigers draw within four on a Nick Honor 3-pointer off one of MU’s rare offensive rebounds.
Any hopes were snuffed out quickly by a Marble 3-point play, the late arrival of Wade Taylor to the party, and the Aggies spending the final eight minutes in the double bonus.
- Let’s Talk Rebounding — Again: Each game involves tricky accounting for this roster. It needs to force turnovers to prime its transition attack, and it relies on the steady hands of Nick Honor to keep its tally modest. That happened again at Reed Arena on Wednesday. It doesn’t matter how tightfisted you are defensively if opponents collect almost 40 percent of their misses. It also cuts the other way for the Tigers. Noah Carter grabbed three of MU’s nine offensive boards. Four more were amorphous team rebounds. Ronnie DeGray III and Kobe Brown tallied one apiece. That’s it.
- An Ill-timed Shooting Slump: Usually, MU sinks 38.6 percent of its catch-and-shoot jumpers. Last night, they went 4 of 24. Simply shooting their season average from behind the arc would have slashed 12 points off the final deficit. It’s little surprise the Aggies’ lead shrank to single digits at the same time Mizzou drained 4 of 7 attempts over three minutes. It’s just unfortunate that the Tigers missed their first seven 3-pointers to start the second half. Once Hodge fouled out, the Tigers’ only remaining spot-up threat was Nick Honor, who was 1 of 4 from long distance.
- Texas A&M Halted the Run at the Line: The Tigers’ brand of defense already means they’re a foul-prone group, ranking 247th nationally in defensive free-throw rate. Oh, and the Aggies are among the top 10 in the country for earning trips to the line. Once MU fell behind and escalated pressure, it was a matter of time before A&M started paving a path to the charity stripe. Seven points came from the line during a 12-0 run that snuffed out MU’s comeback.
Your Trifecta: Nick Honor, Sean East II, Kobe Brown
On the season: D’Moi Hodge 25, Kobe Brown 18, Nick Honor 16, Noah Carter 13, Sean East II 12, DeAndre Gholston 8, Tre Gomillion 3, Isiaih Mosley 2
Some days, I worry for Nick Honor. Early in non-conference, he evenly split the lead guard role with Sean East II. But the Clemson transfer has averaged 34.2 minutes per game over the last nine games. Yet Honor remains MU’s metronome. On a night where the game flow veered all over the road, the point guard posted a 110.9 offensive rating, valued the rock, tried to get MU into good sets, and moved the ball where it needed to go.
And while I appreciate Sean East II providing a competent backstop to Honor, it’s hard for your eye not to be drawn toward D’Moi Hodge’s stat line. Yet the box score doesn’t precisely convey to proper context. On paper, Hodge endured a grisly shooting night. Yet, in real-time, he was taking the types of shots that are best for him. They came on kickouts to him as he drifted or lifted to the corner. He was found several times running to a spot-up on the wing. And on secondary breaks, you’re kosher with him pulling up and firing. But, last night, he fell victim to variance.
Equally frustrating is the fact that Brown looked poised for a monster outing for Mizzou’s. However, by the time he returned, the parameters had changed substantially. MU’s impetus became turning the Aggies over for easy buckets. In the half court, the Tigers’ desire to get two feet was to force A&M to help down and generate open spot-ups. More importantly, his absence leaves MU far more vulnerable on the glass. When he checks out, opponents track down 44.4 percent of their misses, an 11.1 percentage point increase, per Pivot Analysis.
Where’s the third leg of the tripod?
We know Mizzou leans on Hodge and Brown, but we saw a vivid illustration when both looked on with two fouls apiece. It’s laudable that MU passes its third supporting role around. Still, there’s equal value in knowing where you’re getting production night in and night out.
And yes, there’s a particular Missouri State transfer on the roster, one who took a fifth-consecutive DNP last night. Theoretically, Isiaih Mosley exists for games like the one we witnessed last night, an outing where the base offense is wheezing. Having an advantage creator who can manipulate pace and gin-up shots in isolation is helpful. But until Mosley returns and logs consistent minutes, it’s not a fruitful discussion.
Since offering a mild critique of DeAndre Gholston, the Milwaukee transfer spent several games making me choke on my words. The wing moved into a reserve role but found the right blend of assertiveness and prudence, especially with his mid-range attempts. And he catalyzed vital second-half runs against UCF, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt. Inside Reed Arena, he had a chance to put a marker down as the final piece of a triumvirate but went 2 of 9 from the floor and saw 23 minutes elapse between each of those makes. If not for sinking free throws, his efficiency metrics would look like Hodge’s.
There’s also Noah Carter’s candidacy to consider. The undersized five can space the floor or get shots off in pick-and-pops. His handle is tight enough to attack as a bully driver from the elbow or the top of the key. And when he gets the right switch, Carter’s effective playing on the block, especially over his left shoulder.
But since posting 20 points at Wichita State, Carter’s only cracked double figures twice, a stretch where more than half his shots have come behind the arc. Last night, he was 1 of 7 on 3-point attempts, and there were some shots where you wonder what might happen if Carter ripped through and attacked. The rewards are clear. Over the past seven games, the Northern Iowa transfer has tallied 1.736 points per shot when he gets to the rack.
Look, we all admire the feat Dennis Gates has pulled off. He’s doing the very thing Cuonzo Martin repeatedly said was his aim: playing at pace but with enough shooting and a coherent plan in the half-court.
When assembling this roster, Gates clearly grasped that possessions are basketball’s vital currency. So, he acquired ball handling to keep MU from frivolously wasting them. Almost all of his imported talent came with a track record of rim finishing, and sure enough, MU ranks in the 96th percentile for that very thing. And even after last night diluted the sample, MU still makes 37.2 percent of its catch-and-shoot 3s, checking in at a respectable 79th in Division I.
A soft opening seven games helped MU build an efficiency buffer, but that’s changed since the trip to Wichita State. Going into last night, the Tigers’ raw offensive efficiency in non-garbage time was 1.144 points per possession, per EvanMiya.com data. Afterward, it fell to 1.108 PPP — down 9.3 percent from when MU took a blowtorch to low- and mid-majors.
Meanwhile, its porous defense is now giving up almost 1.090 PPP against decent opponents. It leaves MU with a pretty thin net rating of 1.8 points per 100 possessions. That’s life when you’re sitting at 201st in adjusted defensive efficiency. You need your offense operating at peak efficiency to keep your head above water. And when shots don’t drop, the math gets sideways in a hurry.
And it won’t get easier in the near term. Next up is a trip to Florida, and while the Gators have been inconsistent, they also have the profile of a team that might give MU fits. Coach Todd Golden’s group poses an average threat in the half-court, but they’re exceptional when they get into transition. They don’t turn the ball over against pressure. Kyle Loften and Trey Bonham orchestrate well in ball screens. And Colin Castleton is a legit post presence that can punish you as a roller.
So far, MU’s shown remarkable resilience in bouncing back from losses. They’ll need it again Saturday. This section of the slate is treacherous enough that one loss could turn into a landslide.
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.
%Min: This is easy, it’s the percentage of minutes a player played which were available to them. That would be 40 minutes, or 45 if the game goes to overtime.
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.
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. This combined with Usage Rate gives you a sense of impact on the floor.
IndPoss: This is approximates how many possessions an individual is responsible for within the teams calculated possessions.
ShotRate%: This is the percentage of teams shots a player takes while on the floor.
AstRate%: Attempts to estimate the number of assists a player has on teammates made field goals when he is on the floor. The formula is basically AST / (((MinutesPlayed / (Team MP / 5)) * Team FGM) - FGM).
TORate%: Attempts to estimate the number of turnovers a player commits in their individual possessions. The formula is simple: TO / IndPoss
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.
In attempting to update Study Hall, I’m moving away from Touches/Possession and moving into the Rates a little more. This is a little experimental so if there’s something you’d like to see let me know and I’ll see if there’s an easy visual way to present it.