Stats don't tell whole story on Tiller - KMOV.com

Stats don't tell whole story on Tiller

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Missouri's J.T. Tiller, left, fouls Austin Peay's Wesley Channels as he drives toward the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Dec. 27, 2009, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson) By L.G. Patterson Missouri's J.T. Tiller, left, fouls Austin Peay's Wesley Channels as he drives toward the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Dec. 27, 2009, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson) By L.G. Patterson

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- J.T. Tiller may be struggling on the stat sheet, but he's doing fine as far as Missouri coach Mike Anderson is concerned.

Tiller has seen his field goal percentage, steals and assists decline from last season, while his turnovers have risen by nearly half. But Anderson says the numbers can't measure the intangibles.

"Obviously people look at the turnovers and shooting percentages and all that, but you just can't measure heart and that's how I see this kid," Anderson said. "Of course it's not the greatest season that he envisioned having, but he's impactful on this basketball team. Sometimes you don't look at the stats, and from a coach's standpoint I certainly don't."

Tiller is still a standout defender -- he was the Big 12 defensive player of the year last season. Meanwhile, other guards such as senior Zaire Taylor and sophomores Marcus Denmon and Kim English have filled the scoring void.

The Tigers (16-5, 4-2 Big 12) host Texas A&M (15-6, 4-3) on Wednesday.

If Tiller is slightly off his game overall, Taylor isn't. He leads Missouri in minutes and is second in the Big 12 in steals. And like Tiller, he has shown leadership skills that teammates take note of.

"Sometimes he is just an extension of the coach out there on the court," Denmon said of Taylor. "Zaire does a lot of small things that people don't really give him credit for."

English and Denmon are the only two guards to average double figures in scoring. Another guard, freshman Michael Dixon, has provided a spark off the bench and is second among guards in field goal percentage.

"When one guy is playing bad, we've got to have guys that are talented that can step up and take that role when someone else is lacking," Denmon said. "We feed off of that in each other."

Consider a win over Nebraska last month. With English, the team's leading scorer with 14.8 points per game, struggling, reserve Miguel Paul "came out of nowhere" in the words of Cornhuskers coach Sek Henry to lead Missouri with 15 points in 16 minutes.

"If one guy isn't playing well, we have others that can step up and that's what Miguel felt that he needed to do," Denmon said. "It makes us real happy to see that."

English kept his composure through a 17-of-60 shooting slump to start Big 12 play and rallied with 20 points in a 95-80 win over Oklahoma State on Saturday.

"I'm always a confident guy," English said. "I was in a little slump but I was able to break out of it."

Dixon has impressed the rest of Missouri's guards with his poise under pressure, most notably when he hit four straight free throws in overtime in a win at Texas Tech in January.

"He's a different kind of freshman," English said. "He's played well in some big games and it's not a shock at all."

Missouri has won 32 straight at home but has dropped three straight overall to the Aggies. They must contend with Donald Sloan, who ranks third in the Big 12 in with 18.5 points per game.

"We're a defensive minded team so we're just going to try and get after him the same way we get after a lot of the other big guards in the Big 12," Denmon said.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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