COLUMBIA, Mo. — We’ll probably never know what was said exactly during Missouri’s players-only meeting last week. We tend to only hear about these meetings after they work.
This one seemed to work.
“I’m not sure what they talked about,” assistant coach Marco Harris-Stevens said Monday. “I hope it helped and it continues to translate the rest of the year.”
Other than getting Jeremiah Tilmon back on the floor Saturday, there was one obvious difference for the Tigers at South Carolina, noticeably on the offensive end: The ball never stopped moving.
Cuonzo Martin noticed.
“It's a great feeling to share the ball,” Martin said on his radio show Monday. “Coach (Gene) Keady used to say, ‘Share the juices.’ When everybody gets involved it's a good thing. … It’s just a joy to watch. For me it's never who takes the shots. It's just when the ball is moving and everybody is getting a chance to play the ball never stops. For our fans it's almost like if you're an NBA fan watching San Antonio when they were at their best and that ball was flying through the air. It’s hard to guard.”
Junior guard Xavier Pinson has one of the highest usage rates in college basketball at 31.6. Only five players in the six major conferences have a higher rate. Usage rate is stats nerd for “he touches the ball A LOT.” When one player dominates the ball, it doesn’t tend to touch as many other hands on the floor. Some teams can still win that way. Iowa’s Luka Garza has a high usage rate (31.1). So does Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu (30.4). Mizzou’s offense can function with Pinson dominating the ball — as long as he’s making sound decisions, keeping his teammates involved, not throwing the ball into the pep band or taking ill-advised jump shots.
Pinson played one of his worst games at Ole Miss two weeks ago and wasn’t much better last Tuesday at Georgia. From the way teammates have discussed that players-only meeting in broad tones, it sure sounds like Pinson’s play was a topic. Maybe not Pinson specifically but the stagnant style that's been a result of his choices on the floor.
“I think at times we get we get a little rushed, we get a little sped up and maybe we get a couple leak outs in transition or we pull a transition 3,” guard Dru Smith said on Martin’s show. “It's not that they're bad shots. It's maybe just the timing of the shots are bad.”
Pinson played within himself on Saturday at South Carolina, didn’t force the awkward, ill-timed jumper, got to the rim and found open teammates. Most impressive, it was his first turnover-free game this season, breaking a streak of 36 consecutive games of giving the ball away at least once. The last time he didn’t have a turnover might have been Mizzou’s most impressive offensive game under Martin, last year’s 91-75 win over Florida, when he played only 11 minutes.
Next up, Tuesday’s rematch with Ole Miss. Here’s a closer look at the matchup:
No. 24 Missouri vs. Mississippi
When • 8 p.m.
Where • Mizzou Arena
Series; Last meeting • Mississippi leads 14-3; Mississippi 80, Missouri 59, Feb. 10, 2021
Records • Missouri 14-6, 7-6, Mississippi 12-9, 7-7
TV, radio • SEC Network (Dave Neal, Daymeon Fishback), KTRS (550 AM)
Point spread • Missouri by 3 ½
KenPom prediction • Missouri 69, Mississippi 65
Net rankings • Missouri No. 40, Mississippi 62
G Devontae Shuler (6-2, Sr.) … 15.7 ppg, 3.5 apg
G Jarkel Joiner (6-1, Jr.) … 10.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg
G Luis Rodriguez (6-6, So.) … 7.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg
F Robert Allen (6-8, Jr.) … 4.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg
F Romello White (6-8, Sr.) … 10.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg
G Austin Crowley (6-5, So.) … 2.8 ppg
F KJ Buffen (6-7, Jr.) … 8.6 ppg
G Xavier Pinson (6-2, Jr.) … 14.6 ppg, 3.1 apg
G Dru Smith (6-3, Sr.) … 14.1 ppg, 3.6 apg
G Mark Smith (6-5, Sr.) … 10.0 ppg, 32.3 3pt%
F Kobe Brown (6-7, So.) … 7.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg
F Jeremiah Tilmon (6-10, Sr.) … 13.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg
G Javon Pickett (6-5, Jr.) … 6.9 ppg, 2.7 rpg
F Mitchell Smith (6-10, Jr.) … 4.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg