Tigers survive despite brutal performance

Tigers survive despite brutal performance

Credit: AP

Missouri's Marcus Denmon, left, shoots free throws after a technical foul was called on the Texas Tech bench during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012, in Columbia, Mo. Missouri won the game 63-50. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

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by Patrick Wallace, KMOV.com

KMOV.com

Posted on February 8, 2012 at 3:35 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 9 at 2:17 PM

(KMOV.com) - A missed shot raises reason for concern in Columbia, Missouri. Missouri may have a survival instinct after four victories in their last six games by three points or less, or perhaps they just lack the killer instinct needed during March Madness.

For Missouri to expect Monday night’s game at Oklahoma to match the excitement of the Kansas victory two nights prior would call to question their knowledge of college basketball. To expect a lopsided outcome, that’s a bit more reasonable.

Tiger fans did not receive either as Missouri barely escaped Oklahoma thanks to a missed three point attempt.

Monday night’s winner might as well been classified as a win by default. Missouri shot just 55 percent on free throws; luckily the Oklahoma Sooners shot a dismal 39 percent and missed 7 straight to start the game. Missouri committed 12 turnovers to Oklahoma’s 16, and the Tiger’s consistently gave up second chance shots as the Sooners collected 10 offensive rebounds.

The spotlight on young point guard Phil Pressey seems too bright at the moment. He has committed 10 turnovers the past three games, and oftentimes looks to dribble through defenders without a sense of what to do with the ball next.

Kim English, arguably Missouri’s best all-around basketball player, appeared timid to shoot after missing his first three from beyond the arc, and often elected to pass rather than take the open shot. He rarely crashed the boards leading to just one rebound at Oklahoma. In the meantime, the sixth man Michael Dixon continues to be a lone Tiger that will drive to the hoop and protect the ball at the same time.

In hindsight, the Tigers improved to 4-2 in conference road games, a year after finishing 1-7 on the road in the Big 12. The Tigers shot 56 percent from the field in Oklahoma, while Marcus Denmon seems to have hit his stride in conference play. They have also survived the toughest part of their schedule with four out of their last six games on the road, and went 5-1 with two wins against teams ranked in the top 10.

Granted, those are not statistics to just shrug the shoulders at, and perhaps Tiger fans were a bit spoiled to start the season 14-0.

Nevertheless, the Tigers are a team that must focus on the fundamentals as much as anyone. The Tigers must hit free throws, take care of the ball, and drive to the hoop to put opposing big men in foul trouble.

In the first half against Kansas they did that and came out at halftime up five points and had Jayhawk star forward Thomas Robinson in foul trouble. In the second half however, the Tigers stopped driving the ball, appeared content with taking outside shots, and had no answer for Kansas’ approach to consistently dump the ball to Thomas Robinson in the center of the key and have him take a turnaround jumper.

Missouri cannot help the size disadvantage causing them to have 6’6 English matching up with guys much bigger than him. Missouri will get outrebounded, clearly that’s just something to accept at this point after the Sooners outrebounded the Tigers by 13 on Monday.  Missouri must limit the second chance points and turnovers however.

While they match up well against Baylor overall, they will have to hold Baylor’s big men Perry Jones III and Quincy Acy in check this weekend. Jones was held to just four rebounds and eight points when the two teams met last month, but Acy went off for nine rebounds and 18 points.

With a senior laden starting lineup including Ricardo Ratliffe, Matt Pressey, English and Denmon, playing in St. Louis during the Sweet 16 and perhaps even the Elite 8 should not be a goal, but an expectation for the Missouri Tigers.

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