When Missouri hosted Tennessee in a battle of top-15 groups to open SEC play, the Volunteers jumped all around the Tigers early and ran them out of their house gymnasium. Within the weeks since, head coach Cuonzo Martin has repeatedly referred to that loss, Missouri’s first of the season, as a tricky capsule to swallow, saying “that wasn’t us.”
Saturday evening, his group had the prospect to show it. This time, it was Missouri who landed the primary punch, irritating Tennessee with its protection and leaping out to a 13-point lead within the first 10 minutes. The Tigers would go on to win 73-64, main for all however 35 seconds in an announcement victory. Missouri (10-2, 4-2) now sits alone in second place of the SEC standings and has racked up 5 Quadrant I wins, second-most within the nation.
Under is our full report on the win, beginning with 5 issues we discovered.
* The previous couple video games, Missouri has received regardless of Xavier Pinson. The junior level guard had a mixed 9 factors and 9 turnovers throughout the 2 contests. Consequently, he performed fewer than 20 minutes each occasions, one thing he had but to do all season.
Towards Tennessee, Pinson starred. Previous to Saturday’s recreation, Pinson revealed, he sat down with Martin to look at movie and dissect his latest struggles. Martin’s message: Assault the basket extra. The group might stay with just a few turnovers, he informed Pinson, in the event that they got here when he was transferring North to South and on the lookout for his shot.
Message acquired. Pinson erupted for a game-high 27 factors, together with 19 of Missouri’s first 32. He shot 10-14 from the sector, with 5 of these makes being layups. Getting into this recreation, Tennessee hadn’t allowed an opposing participant to attain 20 factors all season. Pinson hit that mark with 19:45 nonetheless to play.
“The largest key and a part of our recreation plan is having him get downhill, get within the paint, make performs,” Martin stated. “(Pinson) is efficient when he’s going North and South and attacking. When he’s East and West and transferring the ball side-to-side, he’s not assertive, he’s not aggressive. We’d like him downhill, making performs.”
Martin stated Pinson set the tone together with his protection. Missouri racked up 10 takeaways within the first 10 minutes of recreation time (extra on that shortly), and Pinson had two of them. That, in flip, led to alternatives to get out in transition and assault the basket, and Pinson took benefit.
He did not do all of his injury as a driver, nonetheless. He additionally made all three of his three-point photographs — an space through which he was actually struggling previous to Saturday. He entered the sport simply 12-47 from behind the arc on the season. Flattening photographs from the perimeter, Pinson stated, made attending to the basket even simpler.
“When the shot is falling, guys bought to, after all, guard somewhat tighter,” Pinson stated. “A participant of my velocity, if someone is guarding you that tight, it’s type of, I wouldn’t say simpler, however you’ve a large open lane. So that you gotta reap the benefits of these issues.”
Pinson did most of his injury early, serving to Missouri construct the first-half lead it will by no means relinquish. Nonetheless, when the group wanted a pair clutch buckets to maintain Tennessee at arm’s size down the stretch, he delivered.
At one level within the second half, Missouri went almost four-and-a-half minutes with out a level. Tennessee used that point to chop the Tiger result in eight factors with 6:43 to play. Pinson ended the run when, left open on the high of the important thing, he coolly sank a 20-foot jumper. The Tigers would then rating two extra fast buckets to increase the lead again to 14. Later, with Tennessee inside 9 with two minutes to play, Pinson delivered a dagger when he drove into the lane, spun from proper to left and scooped a shot previous a defender, off the backboard and in.
“I really feel like the primary time we performed them I simply got here off the display and allow them to cease me,” Pinson stated of his mindset, “and I in all probability swung it and stood nonetheless or made the offense stagnant. So it was simply getting downhill for me, and if not, swinging it, preserve transferring and preserve slicing and screening.”
* Pinson wasn’t the one member of the Missouri backcourt to place up massive numbers. Dru Smith continued his latest scoring surge by chipping in 18 factors and 4 rebounds.
Smith, who solely scored six factors in the course of the first matchup between Missouri and Tennessee, has now scored at the least 15 factors in every of the Tigers’ previous three video games. Usually, Smith’s calling card is effectivity, however he needed to try 18 photographs, his most in a recreation since transferring to Missouri, to get his 18 factors towards Tennessee. That is okay with Martin, nonetheless. Throughout Missouri’s COVID-19-induced pause, Martin stated the teaching employees bought on Smith about being extra assertive on the offensive finish, and he has delivered.
“I believe the coaches are simply wanting me to be somewhat bit extra aggressive, taking these photographs after they’re open,” Smith stated. “So I believe just a bit little bit of each, simply type of enjoying within the circulate of the sport but additionally making an attempt to make it possible for I’m being aggressive and making an attempt to make performs for myself and the opposite guys.”
Smith did not simply excel on the offensive finish, Martin famous. Tennessee’s beginning backcourt of Keon Johnson and Santiago Vescovi mixed for simply 11 factors and 7 turnovers. Martin credited Smith for contributing to that.
“Like a Jontay Porter, these guys carry out on each ends of the ground,” Martin stated. “And that’s his recreation. He’s completed an awesome job defending, shutting guys down, and he’s scoring the ball.
* Missouri’s star the previous few video games, Jeremiah Tilmon, had a quiet evening, at the least by his latest requirements. Tilmon, who entered Saturday having averaged 18.5 factors and 9.Three rebounds per recreation throughout the previous 4 contests, completed with 9 factors and 5 boards towards the Volunteers.
Nonetheless, his teammates and head coach stated the massive artificial his presence felt on each ends of the ground. Offensively, Tilmon drew fixed double and even triple groups from Tennessee’s protection. That spotlight helped open up less difficult scoring alternatives for his teammates, one thing Missouri struggled to seek out within the first matchup towards Tennessee. After changing simply seven of 17 layups three weeks in the past, Missouri made 13 of 26 photographs on the rim this time round.
“At some factors, it seemed like they had been sending three guys at him every time he bought that ball within the publish,” Smith stated of Tilmon. “So it was positively getting us some open seems, the lanes had been somewhat extra open, and despite the fact that he wasn’t scoring as a lot tonight, he nonetheless had a big impact on the sport.”
Martin was much more impressed with Tilmon’s presence on the defensive finish of the ground. Matched up towards Tennessee’s main scorer and preseason first-team all-SEC ahead John Fulkerson, Tilmon greater than held his personal. Fulkerson did not even try his first discipline purpose till greater than 27 minutes had handed. He completed the sport with seven factors on three of seven taking pictures. Maybe most significantly, Tilmon averted main foul hassle, staying on the court docket for 30 minutes.
Martin stated he challenged Tilmon earlier than the sport to “dominate” Fulkerson. Tilmon, enjoying essentially the most assured basketball of his school profession, rose to the event.
“I stated, I need you to consider one thing, Jeremiah,” stated Martin. “Fulkerson’s a great participant, he’s a fifth-year senior. However I stated, Jeremiah, you’re 260 kilos. Fulkerson is 215, possibly 220 kilos. Simply take into consideration that for a minute. I stated, you must dominate the sport. Whether or not you’re scoring the ball, you must put a lot strain on him bodily that ultimately he provides in and different stuff occurs. … However I believe Jeremiah actually understood, I’m as robust as anyone on this league, man, and I’ll put strain. And he did simply that each one evening.”
* Missouri has not all the time fired on all cylinders on the outset of its contests this season, however for the second recreation in a row, the Tigers’ execution within the first couple of minutes proved the distinction within the recreation. Beginning quick was particularly essential towards Tennessee, which is well-suited to enjoying from forward because of its sluggish tempo and swarming protection, because it proved when it jumped out to a 23-Four lead at Mizzou Area. This time, simply greater than 5 minutes into the matchup, Missouri led 11-3.
“They jumped out on us fast at house, so we knew we needed to select up that defensive strain this time, not let the ball swing simply,” Smith defined, “and we had been in a position to get a pair turnovers, couple stay ball turnovers there at the start and get out and run.”
As Smith alluded to, Missouri constructed its early lead with its protection. The Tigers denied drives and jumped in entrance of passes, forcing Tennessee, which entered the sport averaging simply 10.6 turnovers per contest, to show the ball over 10 occasions earlier than 10 minutes had elapsed. Nearly all of these turnovers led to transition alternatives for Missouri — big for a group that struggled mightily to get its halfcourt offense going within the first assembly.
“We set the tone, getting within the passing lanes, being aggressive,” Martin stated. “In the event that they had been going to beat us, they had been going to beat us enjoying the way in which we needed to dictate tempo” Aggressive, get of their face, making them make performs, catching the ball out after which making an attempt to make them make one-on-one performs. I believed our guys did an awesome job of embracing that problem, as a result of they’ve numerous guys that may make performs off the dribble.”
* This win is important for Missouri not simply due to the quantity subsequent to Tennessee’s title or what it provides to the Tigers’ postseason resume, however as a result of it verifies that the worst lack of the season is extra the exception than the rule. A number of occasions since that loss, Martin has referred to as it a recreation he’ll by no means actually recover from, not simply because his group flopped on a giant stage, however as a result of he felt the Tigers bought out-toughed.
“You must give all of the credit score to Tennessee beating us at our place,” he stated. “They received the sport. However that wasn’t us as a group, and our guys knew that, and that was a tough capsule for me to swallow, simply from a toughness standpoint. You’re going to lose some video games, it’s simply, we allowed them to maneuver the ball, all the things you possibly can consider, they did it, and it was prefer it was simply observe for them. And our guys noticed that, they perceive that.”
Saturday, it was Missouri that set the tone early and made the gritty performs obligatory to carry onto its lead. The Tigers received the rebounding battle 34-29, they outscored Tennessee by eight within the paint and drew even with the Volunteers on second-chance factors. Each participant deserves credit score for the transformation, however Martin particularly praised two guys for making the kind of performs Missouri missed in its loss to Tennessee: Kobe Brown and Mitchell Smith.
Brown, particularly, made just a few big performs down the stretch after struggling early. The sophomore ahead did not rating within the first half and picked up his fourth foul simply 22 minutes into the sport. But he went on to play 10 extra minutes. He knocked down a clutch nook three-pointer to cap a 7-Zero run, then stole a cross and took it the size of the ground, the place he drew a foul. However most spectacular to Martin was Brown’s rebounding. 5 of his team-high seven rebounds got here within the second half, together with a number of on the offensive finish that saved possessions alive.
“He was robust,” Martin stated of Brown. “I simply challenged Kobe and Mitch on the half, like, man, you guys bought to carry it to the desk. They bought two or three guys serving to loads on Tilmon, we want a few of these offensive rebounds on the bottom, then we want you guys to be elite defensively and do your job. … And each of these guys embraced the problem and so they performed nicely within the second half, for my part.”
Martin did not miss a chance to tout his group’s resume after the sport, nonetheless. He stated Saturday confirmed that when Missouri can deal with the ball and knock down just a few three-pointers, it will probably play with anyone within the nation. When the rankings replace on Monday, he believes they need to mirror that.
“Like I stated to our guys, a top-10 group received the sport as we speak,” Martin stated. “And I actually really feel that approach, as a result of I’ve watched these rankings — and I don’t get consumed with it. Impulsively you’ve bought a group that jumped and wins that recreation, wins this recreation. Nicely, let’s see how we soar. Let’s see how we soar. I simply suppose, should you’re going to do your job, do it the correct approach, and we’ve earned it towards a high 10 group in a tricky setting, received the basketball recreation, and it’s my struggle for our gamers from that standpoint, as a result of they’ve earned it.”
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Truthfully, it is robust to seek out one thing Missouri might have completed significantly better. The Tigers got here out both tied or forward in each single statistical class. In the event you needed to nit-pick, you could possibly level to Tennessee getting, and changing, fairly just a few open seems from three-point vary, however Martin did notice after the sport that there have been sure gamers Missouri was content material to permit to shoot as a result of Tennessee’s main methodology of assault is off the bounce. And actually, it is a testomony to how nicely the Tigers performed that they may permit an opponent to shoot almost 44 % from the sector, 41 % from three-point vary and win — on the street towards a top-10 opponent.
STAR OF THE GAME: Pinson is the clear selection. After actually struggling to discover a rhythm the previous two video games — and spending extra time than normal on the bench in consequence — he was the very best participant on the ground towards Tennessee. His efficiency not solely illustrated how his elite quickness and ending capability can elevate Missouri as a complete when he is on, however how he is matured as a person. Pinson from the previous two years doubtless does not bounce again from two tough outings this nicely.
“I simply need him to be aggressive,” Martin stated of Pinson. “Whether or not it’s two factors or 20 factors, he is aware of the issues that I demand of him. But it surely’s not essentially 27 factors. If he scores it, nice, if he doesn’t, he doesn’t. However he’s gotta defend, rebound, he’s bought to play laborious on a regular basis, and he did that.”
WHAT IT MEANS: After Missouri misplaced two video games in a six-day span, there was some doubt in regards to the legitimacy of the Tigers’ rating. That ought to now be erased. Missouri is alone in second place within the SEC standings. Previous to Saturday, the Tigers hadn’t overwhelmed a top-10 group on the street since 2012 towards No. Three Baylor. Maybe most essential, this group is placing collectively a heck of a resume for the postseason. The one group with as many or extra wins towards Quadrant I competitors than the Tigers this season: No. 1 Gonzaga. We’re about on the level the place the dialogue is not about whether or not Missouri will return to the NCAA Match this season however whether or not the Tigers can seize a top-four seed.
QUOTABLE: “It’s good to see the three-ball go down, as a result of I do know the fellows put a lot time into it, and I knew if we had been in a position to knock the three-ball down and deal with the basketball, I believe that takes us to a different degree as a group.” — Cuonzo Martin