After another blown lead late against Xavier, issues from last season have resurfaced; Can a young Mizzou basketball team hold on long enough to beat a top team?
The Missouri Tigers’ record from last season doesn’t tell the whole story of the team. Late in the season, Mizzou basketball lost many close games after having a lead with just a few minutes to play. This includes the notorious overtime loss to LSU.
Just three games into the season, the problem has come back. The Tigers roared back from a halftime deficit at Xavier to gain a five-point lead with a few minutes left in regulation. However, all momentum was lost and the Musketeers ended up winning in overtime.
The brings up an important question: What needs to change for Mizzou to actually beat a top team?
Head coach Cuonzo Martin needs to make sure he is playing the right five guys in these late game situations. On a crucial play against Xavier late against regulation, Missouri lost possession due to a Javon Pickett travel. Many fans were left wondering why Pickett was even in the game when Mizzou needed a basket, as the sophomore guard is known mainly for his defensive skill.
The lineups also didn’t match up well for Missouri. The Tigers were running a lineup with four guards, meanwhile Xavier had two bigs. With the likes of Tilmon, Reed Nikko, Tray Jackson, and Kobe Brown, the four-guard combo didn’t make much sense.
2.) Feed the hot hand
Anyone watching the early season duel between Xavier and Missouri knows Dru Smith played an incredible game. He attacked the basket and put pressure on the defense, hit some insane 3s, rebounded well and defended like crazy. Yet, late in the game, the ball wasn’t in his hands.
Instead it was sophomore Xavier Pinson. Pinson did make some good plays down the stretch, but it was still confusing why Smith didn’t have any plays drawn up for him. Later in overtime, it was Pinson again missing big three-point shots. Missouri has many great shooters better than Pinson, so why was he the one with the ball in crunch time?
3.) Protect the ball/Good possessions
Honestly, Missouri probably shouldn’t have even had a chance to beat Xavier based on offensive execution. Thanks to a gritty defense, however, it was close. The Tigers had 20 turnovers while shooting 33 percent from the field.
The offensive sets Mizzou runs seem repetitive. Drive, pump fake, pass out. Drive, kick out. Drive, pump fake, if there is not shot, kick out. When that fails, look for Tilmon. This leads to travels, bad passes, and turnovers. Missouri has to get more creative on offense.
With so many weapons, there is no reason to run the same thing with any different mix of players. Martin must use the different skills each player possesses. Brown should not be chucking up 3s late in the game. They must get creative.
The Tigers will look to recoup on Monday at home against Wofford.