The Missouri Tigers (20-8, 9-6) dominated South Carolina (13-15, 3-12) 90-68 on Thursday and picked up their second road win of the year. The win improves them to 9-6 in conference play and puts them in a tie for 5th in the standings.
Mizzou shot 69.6% from the field and made six of their nine three point attempts. Jabari Brown scored 23 points on 8-10 shooting, and Keion Bell led all scorers with 24 points. Eight different Tigers scored at least two points, but there was one player who was surprisingly shut out of the scoring column.
Junior guard, Phil Pressey, was held without a point in the win against South Carolina, and he didn’t even attempt a single shot. Not only did he not attempt a field goal, he never even got to the line to attempt a free throw. Pressey still dished out nine assists, so he wasn’t completely invisible out there. But the question has to be asked, is this the Pressey that Frank Haith wants to see or is this Pressey giving Haith the big middle finger?
Missouri is 12-2 when Pressey attempts less than 10 field goals in a game and they are 8-6 when he attempts 10 or more shots. Missouri’s offense flows much better when he’s penetrating the lane and creating shots for others, instead of dribbling around the arc and jacking up threes. Clearly Haith has had discussions with Pressey about this. He hasn’t been shy about stating that Pressey needs to make smarter decisions. Is Haith getting through to Pressey in these discussions, or is Pressey saying I’ll show him?
Pressey has attempted 20 or more shots three times this season in conference play. He has followed all three of those games by shooting it two times or less in the next game. He also averages nine assists in games that follow a 20+ shot performance.
In those games where he shoots the ball two times or less, it almost seems like he is purposely turning down shots just to prove a point. He’s had wide open layups where instead of shooting it, he decides to pass it to a teammate who is right next to him. I personally think he’s trying to prove a point to Frank Haith. What that point is I don’t know, but it seems like he’s saying, “You don’t want me to shoot as much? Ok, I won’t shoot at all then.”
Now, I don’t know Pressey, so this might not be an attitude issue and this might be exactly what Haith is telling him to do. Either way, I’m perfectly happy with it as long as his attitude doesn’t start to affect his teammates. Pressey is a very talented player, and he might be the only player in the country that is the most important player on the court without even scoring a single point. If the Tigers are going to make a deep run in March, Pressey is going to be a big reason for that.
Missouri is the only team in the country that has six players averaging double figures in points per game, and all six of those players have scored 20 points or more at least once this season. They are one of the few teams in the country that have multiple players capable of stepping up and scoring 20, when another starter is struggling.
With that said, they sometimes struggle to create their own shots. That’s why Pressey continues to be so important even if he doesn’t shoot. By him driving to the lane, he can kick it out to Brown for an open three or toss it up to Oraki for a dunk. He sees the floor very well and makes passes that other point guards aren’t capable of making.
Now that were in March, it becomes even more important that Pressey continues to play at a high level. The Tigers are currently listed as an 8 seed according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. If Mizzou can finish the season strong and improve that seed to a 6 or 7, they will have a much better chance of making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.