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Study Hall: Mizzou 86, Tennessee 85

Turns out you can out-offense a good defensive team!

study hall 2022

The sequence of events which led Mizzou from looking at a “close, but no cigar” road loss to the biggest win of the season was just truly bizarre.

After getting out to a lead as big as 17 points, Mizzou watched as Tennessee went nuclear from outside the arc and bombed (and made like a LOT of FTs) their way back into the game and an eventual 6 point lead with just over 4 minutes to play. But the Tigers would never let the Vols get away. They clung in the game.

Tennessee had a three point lead with 1:15 to play. DeAndre Gholston missed a tough jumper, but the defense held when Santiago Vescovi missed a guarded three point shot. Mizzou took their time and Kobe Brown converted a tough runner through contact to cut the lead to one point with just 8 seconds to play. After a quick foul, Vescovi converted two free throws to extend the lead back to three. With a three point lead and 4 seconds on the clock, Tennessee elected to foul up three.

As someone who is anti-Foul Up Three (as a hard and fast rule — I’ll expand on a podcast), this felt like a mistake because they extended the game. Sean East II missed the front end of a two shots, and made his second. Nick Honor fouled Vescovi before the ball was inbounded keeping the clock at 4.1 seconds.

After missing the first free throw, freshman forward Tobe Awaka dove into the lane early causing a lane violation. So between Tennessee fouling East up three, and Missouri getting the ball back, no time had come off the clock. Then, as we like to say, Dree Gholston got on his bullshit:

Call me biased. But basketball is the best sport and I don’t think it’s very close. There is nothing like a buzzer beater. I screamed with joy watching Tywin Lawrence hit the three Vandy needed to beat Tennessee earlier in the week. I saw THIS TWEET and had a similar reaction. But it’s even better when your team does it.

Mizzou just went on the road and beat a top 10 opponent. There were a lot of errors after this game being tweeted out as far as the last time this happened, but Mizzou’s last top 10 win on the road was... in Knoxville, in 2021. When Xavier Pinson had 27 points en route to a 73-64 win. Tennessee was also ranked 6th at the time. The interesting part is Mizzou was ranked at that time; they were 19th in the AP poll. The last time an unranked Mizzou team beat a ranked opponent on the road was 2007, when Mizzou beat 18th ranked Oklahoma State. But the last time an unranked Mizzou team beat a top 10 opponent? Woof, you have to go back to 1988 when the unranked Mizzou Tigers took down the 7th ranked UNLV Running Rebels.

So enjoy this because it doesn’t happen really very often at all. Top 10 teams don’t lose often. They lose even less often at home. And way less often to unranked opponents. Though I expect Mizzou to rejoin the top 25 when the AP poll is released tomorrow.

Team Stats

2023 study hall tennessee
  • The only way to really appreciate what Mizzou was able to do offensively: while facing the nation’s best defense... is to talk in context with how they performed versus the rest of the Vols’ opponents. Just 6 teams all year have scored more than 1.0 PPP versus Tennessee. The 2nd best offensive performance against them was on Tuesday against Vanderbilt when Vandy hit for 1.127 PPP. Mizzou hit 1.336 PPP. That’s nearly 21 points for every 100 possessions. Keeping in mind that Tennessee had the best defense in the KenPom era, adjusted for opponent. Well, not anymore.
  • What may be even better is the Vols’ Offensive Performance: their 1.32 was the third best on the season. Prior to this game the belief was that the Vols were good enough defensively that if they scored the ball well you can’t beat them. Well, so much for that, too.
  • The Free Throw disparity was something: Mizzou shot a good amount of free throws with 17 attempts. But UT’s 33 attempts is what got them back into the game and ultimately allowed them to take the lead. Mizzou was called for a nearly unreal 17 fouls in the second half, while the Vols committed 11. There’s no mistaking that how the officials called the game helped Tennessee settle enough to get back into the game. Tennessee used 6 made free throws in a 9-0 run to cut a 14 point lead down to 5. And then four more in a 15-0 run to go from down 10 to up 5. During that time, from the start of the 9-0 run to the end of the 15-0 run Mizzou attempted 0 free throws. They still survived.

Mizzou still won the BCI battle, but the Vols really had a tale of two halves. In the first half Tennessee had 7 turnovers all on Mizzou steals, the second half was just 3 turnovers and 2 steals for the Tigers. It felt like you could count each Mizzou turnover in your head, but it felt like they were impactful. But one of the things that makes this team so good is even when you feel like they’re just kicking the ball all over the place, against one of the sports best defenses, it’s still just a 10.8% turnover rate.

Player Stats

Your Trifecta: Sean East II, DeAndre Gholston, Kobe Brown

2023 study hall tennessee

On the season: Kobe Brown 37, D’Moi Hodge 35, Nick Honor 18, Noah Carter 17, Sean East II 16, DeAndre Gholston 15, Tre Gomillion 5, Isiaih Mosley 5, Mohamed Diarra 3

Sean East II turning legendary in a road game in Knoxville was definitely on my bingo card. In the first half, East went nuts. He hit two 3s and his first five shots from the floor to give Mizzou the cushion they needed going into half time. That was good, but what he did in the second half is what made him a legend:

That’s right. He spooked Vescovi enough to think about his failure the game before. If Santiago Vescovi makes his free throws, Vandy doesn’t hit a three to win the game and neither does Mizzou. East dropped 17 points and 4 assists; Vescovi had 16 and 1.

Last night, Dree was on his bullshit. As a space/blog which has been both kind and critical of DeAndre Gholston, I say that with all love and kindness. There reaches a point in a lot of Missouri wins when Gholston makes a shot, or maybe two, where you just kind of shrug and smile and chuckle. Dree made 6 shots from the floor against UT, five in the second half. But you knew something could happen when there was only one improbable shot he made, the late in the shot-clock three. Then he hit the one at the buzzer.

2023 study hall tennessee

If you’d have told me before the game that East and Gholston would be the GameScore leaders I probably wouldn’t have guessed that Mizzou won. Kobe Brown being third was good, because Kobe was awesome. If he’d have just fouled less... if Mohamed Diarra had just fouled less, or D’Moi Hodge... there were a lot of fouls is what I’m saying here.

But despite the fouls, Mizzou still had six guys with a floor rate higher than 40%. Again, reiterating that this Tennessee defense is elite, and what Mizzou did to them was basically make them play a different way. Tennessee went small to combat the Tigers’ advantage. After 25 minutes of Mizzou exploiting matchups to score nearly at will, Barnes went “small” and it allowed UT to come back. But just doing that should show Missouri that they’re capable of matching up with anyone thanks to their offense.

Vanderbilt had four players hit the 100 ORtg metric against Tennessee at home. Missouri played 9, and only Nick Honor didn’t hit that mark. And he was credited with just 3.5 possessions. Just a remarkable offensive performance.

It’s been hard for me to wind down and write this post because it went from an improbable run to an improbable decline to an impossible shot to win. Everything went right. Then nearly everything went wrong. But Mizzou could only win if the exact finishing sequence plays out how it did. When East missed his first free throw, Mizzou had just a 1.7% chance to win. But as Dree was pulling up from just inside half court and making his second buzzer beating three to win the game on the year, you want it to go in but you don’t imagine it will. Most of the time those shots don’t go in. Except this time it did. When those things happen you just want to enjoy the moment.

This win gives Missouri a much stronger footing on an NCAA bid than they had before. No matter what happens to Tennessee from here on out, it’s a Quad 1 win. It’s a Quad 1 win on the road. You can’t take that away.

Next up is Auburn, at Auburn. The Tigers of the Plains have lost five of their last six games. But three of those were on the road against Tennessee, West Virginia, and Texas A&M. The two home losses were against Alabama and Texas A&M. So the losses have piled up but they were all against really good teams. They’re still a very good and capable team who’s in the top 30 in KenPom and still favored to win the game.

They’re also 7-5 in Conference play. Mizzou is also 7-5. They’re tied for 4th. So this is a big important game coming off another big important game. Auburn is coming off a loss at home to their main rival. I can’t imagine they’ll be happy about that. Let’s hope Mizzou is thirsty for more.

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 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 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.