And-One: Missouri's long lost offense shows up in a big way
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The morning after each Mizzou basketball game this season, we will highlight a few notable takeaways from the performance in the ‘And-One.’
Aggression leads to offensive explosion
Missouri had one of its worst statistical defensive performances of the season against Florida on Saturday night. The Gators scored 75 points, the second-most the Tigers had surrendered all season. Missouri won the game by 16 points.
The credit goes to an offense that had been in hibernation all season long. Missouri's 91 points matched a season-high previously set against Chicago State, one of the worst teams in Division One basketball. Florida is no Chicago State.
"As a staff we felt helpless," Florida coach Mike White said. "Couldn’t find a way to get stops. It wasn’t our best effort, but I think Mizzou had a lot to do with that."
Basketball often isn't a complex game. When the ball goes in the basket, things tend to go well. Missouri shot 63% from three-point range on Saturday, their best percentage in a game in seven seasons. The Tigers shot 61.5% overall and turned the ball over just 11 times. They had 18 assists on 32 field goals.
"I think more than anything shots went down," Cuonzo Martin said. "If shots go down you’re a different team."
But it wasn't just that. The Tigers were making a conscious effort to drive. They were making a conscious effort to get out and run when opportunities presented themselves. They were, quite simply, a different offensive team than they had been for most of the first 14 games of the season.
"We couldn’t find ways to slow them down. My goodness," White said. "I don’t remember the last time that’s happened to us at Florida. They dominated the game offensively."
Pinson provides the highlight of the night
On a night of offensive fireworks, none was more explosive than the first half dunk unleashed by sophomore guard Xavier Pinson.
"To me, it was just getting the crowd involved, giving the crowd something worth their time for coming," Pinson said. "We just tried our best to keep our energy up plus the dunk just kept the fans involved."
Indeed it did. Winter weather limited the size of the crowd on Saturday. It was probably a number somewhat smaller than the 9001 Mizzou announced, but it was definitely a group that got its money's worth out of Pinson and the Tigers.
Dru Smith lives up to the billing
All off-season, Missouri's transfer from Evansville was built up as a key missing piece to the Tigers' roster. While he's been good most of the season, he has perhaps never been as good as he was on Saturday.
Smith scored a game-high 22 points on just 12 shots. He had six assists, five steals and just two turnovers. Perhaps most importantly, he was 2-4 from three-point range.
"If he’s obviously not in foul trouble he brings a lot to the table," Martin said. "But what he did tonight, he was ready to shoot the three ball. He can shoot it and that sets up his whole game after that. If his three ball is falling he can do a lot of things for us."
"I thought they rode Dru Smith a lot in ball screen actions," White said. "I thought Dru Smith was fantastic. One of the better performances of anyone we’ve played against this year. He played like an all-league guard."
Smith isn't one to read many of his own press clippings.
"Just working hard and continuing to try to be a leader on the team," Smith said when told of White's comments. "I appreciate him saying that, but it's not something that you really focus on."
As Saturday showed, Smith is likely the Tigers' most important player if it is to pull itself out of an up-and-down first half of the season. When he plays the way he does Saturday, he is capable of being the best player on a good team.
"He's a strong guy," Martin said. "He gets you on his hip, he can make a play. He does a great job of shot faking and he knows how to use angles with bigger guys on him. And he's a good passer. When he gets in that lane he can make plays."
Game at a Glance
CAUSE FOR OPTIMISM: Missouri scored 91 points against an opponent not named Chicago State. For a team that had scored just 59 points in each of its first two conference games, that should provide a big confidence boost moving forward.
CAUSE FOR CONCERN: The one thing Missouri did not do well Saturday was keep Florida off the free throw line. The Tigers got whistled for 26 fouls, and as a result the Gators attempted 32 free throws. Florida has been adept at drawing whistles all season, and some of those fouls were debatable, so it’s certainly not cause for panic, but this is far from the first time Missouri has found itself in foul trouble. The Tigers’ foul rate of 28.2 percent ranks 328th nationally on the season.
STOCK UP: Three-point shooting. Missouri struggled from the perimeter throughout the non-conference slate and entered Saturday shooting 30.5 percent for the season from three-point range. Against Florida, the Tigers shot 12-19 from three (63.2 percent). Seven players made at least one shot from deep, and the team seemed to come up with a make every time the Gators threatened to get back into it. That level of shooting probably won’t be sustainable moving forward, but Missouri will hope it puts the team back on track with last year’s shooting numbers.
STOCK DOWN: Mario McKinney. The freshman didn’t attend Saturday’s game, and the team explained that he has been suspended indefinitely. Asked about him after the game, Martin simply said “he’s not a part of the team right now.”
UP NEXT: Missouri (9-6) will return to the road and travel to Mississippi State (9-6) on Tuesday. Tipoff is set for 8:00 p.m.