When Missouri assistant coach Chris Hollender and a pair gamers spoke to the media Monday, nearly all of the questions centered round stopping Auburn freshman sensation Sharife Cooper. In simply his first 5 school video games, Cooper had taken the SEC by storm, averaging 21.1 factors and 9.Zero assists per contest.
Tuesday, he carried out above even his lofty requirements. Cooper stuffed the stat sheet with 28 factors, eight rebounds and seven assists in opposition to Missouri. Cooper left the sport for about eight minutes as a consequence of foul bother, and through that point, Missouri out-scored Auburn by 12, making up for a gradual begin and taking a seven-point lead. However as soon as Cooper returned, Auburn regained management and finally pulled out an 88-82 victory, snapping Missouri’s profitable streak at three video games.
Under is our full report on the loss, beginning with 5 issues we discovered.
* Missouri’s power for a lot of this season has been its protection, notably on the perimeter. Final week, the Tigers shut down each South Carolina’s high-scoring backcourt duo of AJ Lawson and Jermaine Couisnard in addition to Tennessee’s Keon Johnson and Santiago Vescovi. However Cooper represented a complete completely different problem, one Missouri could not cease.
Missouri began the sport with junior Xavier Pinson guarding Cooper. Dru Smith then received a shot, as did reserve guard Drew Buggs, for a bit. Even wing Javon Pickett spent a while guarding Cooper. Pickett might need had probably the most success of the group, however nobody may constantly keep in entrance of Cooper, which coach Cuonzo Martin mentioned is essential to slowing him down. Auburn despatched a gentle food plan of ball screens Cooper’s means, and as soon as he was ready to make use of them to get previous a defender, he had his alternative of both scoring or discovering an open teammate.
“The hot button is to attempt to maintain him in entrance of you,” Martin mentioned. “It’s simpler mentioned than achieved as a result of he’s shifty, he’s quick and he’s received a number of screens coming at you. However I believe the place he made his strikes — and I don’t suppose a lot he beat Dru Smith and people guys one on one — however while you beat the ball screens and they’d maneuver by these ball screens, then he would have your bigs on their heels, attacking downhill. So I believe that was it greater than something.”
Cooper scored or assisted on 47 of Auburn’s 88 factors. His contributions helped Auburn rating probably the most of any Missouri opponent this season. Actually, it is the primary time an opponent has put up 80 factors in opposition to the Tigers since Feb. 11 of final season.
Essentially the most telling quantity: In the course of the 12 minutes Cooper spent on the bench through the course of the sport, Missouri out-scored Auburn by 14 factors. In the course of the 28 minutes Cooper performed, Auburn had a 20-point benefit. Whereas a good whistle performed a giant position in each Cooper’s and Auburn’s offensive output (extra on that shortly), Martin actually would have favored to see extra from his protection.
“We gotta take possession of issues,” he mentioned. “You gotta maintain (Cooper) in entrance of you, make him work, make him go excessive of you. He did a terrific job of, once more, getting downhill.”
* An enormous a part of Cooper’s success: He shot a whopping 21 free throws, making 18. That wasn’t a completely new phenomenon — Cooper entered Tuesday averaging 9 free throw makes an attempt per sport — however he hadn’t gotten foul calls to this excessive. Previous to Tuesday, he had but to try greater than 15 pictures from the road in a sport throughout his younger school profession.
He wasn’t the one Auburn participant to attract fouls constantly, both. As a workforce, Missouri received whistled for 31 complete fouls, together with 20 within the second half. Auburn shot 44 free throws on the sport. Solely as soon as throughout Martin’s tenure at Missouri has an opponent tried that many pictures from the road — Auburn, final 12 months. Missouri, in the meantime, shot 27 free throws on account of 21 Auburn fouls.
Martin was diplomatic when requested concerning the officiating after the sport.
“I’m not saying the officers didn’t do a great job, however man, 44 free throws, that’s rather a lot to beat any workforce on the street,” he mentioned.
Martin did level out that, as soon as the fouls began mounting, Missouri had no alternative however to play a bit much less aggressive on the defensive finish, which runs counter to the workforce’s nature. Pinson, Dru Smith and Mark Smith all ended up fouling out of the sport. Finally, Dru Smith mentioned, it is up the gamers to regulate to the way in which the sport is being known as with out dropping their edge.
“That’s sort of who we’re, we need to be sort of intense on the defensive finish, sort of up in you,” he mentioned. “However, I imply, we’ve to regulate now to how the sport is being known as. We now have to do higher particularly there within the second half of making an attempt to make these changes, holding our arms out and simply making straight-up performs on the rim.”
* Early on, Missouri regarded like a workforce enjoying its second street sport in 4 nights. Auburn flustered Missouri with its pace and athleticism, forcing it to begin simply three of 16 from the sector. Nonetheless, when Cooper left the sport with simply over 5 minutes left within the first half after selecting up his third foul, a cost drawn by Pickett, the visiting Tigers took benefit. Missouri out-scored Auburn 11-7 to tug inside 4 at halftime. Then, with Cooper nonetheless out to begin the second half, Missouri carried the momentum over and out-scored Auburn 10-2 within the first three-and-a-half minutes. Missouri led by as many as seven factors with 15:24 to play.
Auburn then went on a 7-Zero run to reclaim the momentum, which it will by no means relinquish. Freshman JT Thor hit a three-pointer after Cooper rebounded his personal miss, then Mark Smith received known as for an offensive foul. Cooper knifed into the lane and scored, then Jeremiah Tilmon misplaced a ball out of bounds for an additional turnover. Tilmon then picked up a foul on the opposite finish, and Dylan Cardwell hit each free throws to tie the sport.
The Auburn run coincided with the beginning of a chilly stretch for Missouri’s offense. From the 12-minute mark within the second half till 2:09 remained, Missouri made simply 5 of 19 subject aim makes an attempt. Throughout the identical stretch, Auburn scored 15 factors on the free throw line. By the point Missouri broke out of its capturing droop, it trailed by 9 factors with simply over two minutes to play.
“I believe within the second half, enjoying with good tempo, getting the ball inside to Tilmon, forcing these guys to make performs, … and I’m undecided what occurred after that,” Martin mentioned. “I’ll have to look at. I assumed possibly a fast shot right here and there, a breakdown defensively, and we simply sort of spiraled.”
* Missouri’s shot choice wasn’t at all times excellent, notably early within the sport, when Dru Smith mentioned the workforce performed into Auburn’s arms by forcing plenty of three-pointers early within the shot clock. Nonetheless, for a lot of the contest, the chief concern that led to the Tigers capturing 38.2 p.c from the ground was not shot choice, however changing alternatives near the basket.
Missouri completed the sport simply 18-of-38 on layup and dunk makes an attempt. A part of that actually needed to do with Auburn’s protection. The house Tigers completed the sport with a whopping 14 blocks. However Martin and Dru Smith each mentioned Missouri wanted to do a greater job of ending across the basket.
“I’d say we most likely simply must take yet another dribble once we get in there,” mentioned Smith. “Loads of occasions we ended up leaping out greater than we’re as much as end on the rim, sort of going away from the contact, and that’s sort of what they wished you to do.”
Martin pointed to 1 sequence specifically within the second half that helped swing the momentum. Dru Smith received a steal however missed a contested layup on the following quick break. Pickett ran the ground behind him and tried to faucet the ball in however missed as properly. Auburn drew a foul on the opposite finish of the ground.
“You gotta give credit score, there have been most likely a pair they made good blocks,” Martin mentioned. “However I believe greater than something, those I watched from the sideline, we didn’t go up sturdy, we didn’t go up ending the ball, we didn’t make contact and maintain our heads up, ending. Just like the one Dru Smith had within the second half may have put us up three, with Sharife Cooper on him, missed it after which Javon tipped it. I imply, these are powerful ones. You gotta have these.”
* Missed layup apart, Dru Smith was one brilliant spot for Missouri. The reigning SEC participant of the week continued his sturdy play, main the workforce with 21 factors. He additionally had 4 rebounds and three assists in 21 minutes.
Smith has been noticeably extra assertive on the offensive finish of the ground since Missouri returned from its COVID-induced layoff, which Martin mentioned has been on the route of the teaching employees. Throughout Missouri’s final 4 video games, he has averaged 17.5 factors per sport. He is turn out to be the workforce’s most dependable three-point shooter, too. Smith made three-of-four triples in opposition to Auburn to carry his proportion to 45.four previously 4 video games and 41.three on the season.
“He’s a great basketball participant,” Martin mentioned of Smith. “I assumed he did some good things in guarding Sharife. I imply, it’s not a straightforward project.”
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Missouri did not simply miss plenty of simple scoring alternatives across the basket. The workforce, and notably Tilmon, struggled on the free throw line.
Tilmon was largely stable within the contest, racking up 19 factors and 10 rebounds, his fourth double-double in his final six video games. However he struggled mightily from the free throw line, making simply three of 11 makes an attempt. He missed six of his ultimate seven pictures from the road, together with the entrance finish of a one-and-one. As a workforce, Missouri made 18 of its 27 free throws.
Tilmon entered the matchup capturing 55.Zero p.c from the road this season, however 62.5 p.c throughout SEC play. Martin mentioned the period of time the workforce has spent on the street of late may have performed a job, as Tilmon and his teammates haven’t got the identical common entry to a gymnasium, however the concern was clearly exacerbated by a insecurity.
“I believe it’s reps and his routine,” Martin mentioned. “After all he’s extra environment friendly in engaged on them at house as a result of you might have entry to services, and to not say that’s the rationale why he missed pictures. I imply, three of 11, I believe he’s a greater free throw shooter than that. They only didn’t go for him.”
STAR OF THE GAME: Whereas Cooper was the clear general MVP, Dru Smith will get the honors for Missouri. Smith scored 21 factors, grabbed 4 rebounds and dished three assists on the offensive finish whereas spending fairly a little bit of time matched up in opposition to Cooper on protection.
WHAT IT MEANS: Finally, provided that Missouri was coming off a giant win late Saturday night time and did not get an opportunity to return to Columbia between video games, this loss should not be main trigger for concern, supplied Missouri can get rid of a few of its defensive breakdowns and shoot higher across the rim going ahead. A Saturday house matchup in opposition to TCU, which hasn’t performed a sport since Jan. 12, as a part of the SEC-Massive 12 Problem ought to present a chance to get again within the win column. Tip-off is about for 1 p.m.
QUOTABLE: “I believe we had been up seven or eight within the second half, transferring the ball inside, transferring the ball, then unexpectedly, fast shot right here, turnover, missed layup. I believe greater than something momentum killers had been, I believe we had rather a lot on the rim that I believe ought to have gone down, and we didn’t make them, and it turned the sport.”” — Cuonzo Martin