It didn’t take a basketball scientist to see Mizzou had some offensive issues in their SEC Tournament loss to 12-seed Georgia, but the lack of flow was due to several factors.
Cuonzo Martin made no excuses about it and knows his Tigers must play better to go beyond Friday’s NCAA Tournament opener with Florida State, a tall — and very fast — team known for attacking the ball and forcing turnovers.
“If there’s a team in the SEC that I would say they’re similar to, I would say Arkansas, but they probably have a little more length on the perimeter,” Martin recently told The Bernie Miklasz Show. “And they’re one of those teams, for some reason (head coach) Leonard Hamilton seems to find guys that are 7-3, 7-4 and he has one of those guys on this roster as well.”
Martin’s referring to Seminoles big man Christ Koumadje, who at 7-foot-4 helps the team’s ranking as the seventh-tallest roster at the Big Dance according to KenPom.com.
“Physically, they do a great job of crashing the glass and they force you to turn the ball over and that’s one area we’ve struggled with all season long so we’ve got to tighten the screws up in taking care of the basketball and we have to really put bodies on those guys and keep them off the glass.”
Keeping the big boys off glass will be a challenge, but Martin’s former statement on turnovers hits home most, as Mizzou averaged 14.2 per game this season for 453 total. They were able to tone this down in their 62-60 loss to Georgia, but foul trouble for forwards Kevin Puryear and Jeremiah Tilmon led to Michael Porter Jr. having to foot more of the bill than he was ready to during his first game back from injury.
“It probably disrupted the flow, what we were doing, just because (Porter Jr.) hadn’t been a part of it and now he’s in the fold. And again, not making a big deal about the two guys that were in foul trouble, but it put Mike in situations that he hadn’t practiced in a while.
“Now, all of a sudden, we had to mix up some lineups, so, ‘Okay, Mike, you need to be over here right now.’ Well, he hadn’t been in that situation really in practice from probably the first two weeks. So the offense didn’t flow as it needed to flow,” Martin added.
“Jordan (Barnett) and (Kassius Robertson); I didn’t think they were in the flow at the level we needed them in the flow. Again, hopefully we can learn from that. The great thing about playing Friday night is we have a lot of time to kind of air out those kinks so to speak and hopefully we’re ready to roll.”
‘A valuable lesson’
Barnett will serve a one-game suspension during Friday’s NCAA opener after he was arrested for DUI early Saturday morning. Martin acknowledged the senior’s mistake on the Bernie Show, while also describing his attempt to use the instance as a chance for his players to learn a lesson.
“The first thing I’ll say is (Barnett) is a wonderful young man and that’s what is unfortunate. Not that if it should happen to somebody that they proceed to be a bad person. I’m not saying that, but he’s a wonderful guy,” Martin said. “A genuine spirit, a great heart. Teammates love him.
“But the thing I said to him and I said to the guys…we get caught up in the fact that ‘Oh man, Jordan you won’t be a part of the team, you fought so hard to get this team and this university back to the point it’s in the NCAA Tournament and you won’t be a part of it.’
“I said, ‘Guys, that wasn’t the picture.’ I said, ‘The big picture is,’ and excuse me if I’m graphic here, ‘somebody could have died with him driving behind that wheel. That is the most important thing so let’s look at that first.’..It’s a sad deal because I know the guy and I know his heart.”
Mizzou kicks off their NCAA Tournament at 8:50 p.m. on TBS. Stay tuned to 101ESPN throughout the week for plenty of Tigers and college hoops talk as the madness approaches.