Same team, different zip code: Missouri men’s basketball continues post dominance, deep shooting struggles in Texas A&M win

Inside shooting proves pivotal in Saturday’s win while dreadful long-range shooting continued for the Tigers.

Missouri men’s basketball left College Station, Texas with a 68-52 win over Texas A&M, displaying the glaring issues and tremendous advantages that have defined the Tigers’ season throughout the game.

Redshirt senior guard Dru Smith hit the Tigers’ second 3-point attempt to put Missouri on the board, then the rest of the team tried to follow his lead. It did not go well.

A reason for the slow offensive start falls onto the team playing their first game in 11 days, but the team didn’t get going until it started to take shots closer to the hoop.

Coach Cuonzo Martin doesn’t see the Tigers deep shooting woes as something that requires a stylistic overhaul and he believes the long-range misfires are something that can change through more attempts.

“I've never been a guy to say, ‘Okay, stop shooting the ball,’ in a game because now that becomes a focus,” Martin said. “I might say, ‘Guys we need to drive the ball a bit more,’ but I don't necessarily say a guy’s name”

Martin’s logic is sound, but the numbers through 10 games don’t lie. Missouri shoots at the worst clip in the Southeastern Conference at 27.3% from 3 and the season is nearly halfway through.

The good news for Missouri is that they have another rock solid option that has proved successful down the stretch in games this season: get the ball inside.

Missouri flipped the script from the second half against Mississippi State when it blew a 14-point lead. On Saturday, the Tigers expanded their lead through high-percentage shots and gutsy finishes through contact, two things that the team works on diligently in practices.

“We use these like hands that go straight up, like something that the coaches have,” junior guard Javon Pickett said. “Coach has been talking about making sure we’re putting the ball at the right spot on the backboard so it can go in.”

When the ball enters the paint through senior forward Jeremiah Tilmon, the offensive opportunities increase dramatically. Not only does Tilmon carve out space down low for some monster jams, but he creates opportunities for his teammates as well.

Tilmon faces double-teams in the post every game and has developed into an underrated playmaker on the offensive end. The big man only had one assist on Saturday, but he made it count when he saw Pickett out of the corner of his eye for a beautiful feed that led to a 3-point play for the junior guard.

“[Tilmon] has really embraced the double [team],” Martin said. “He spent a lot of time seeing when he's being double and embracing the double. He’s finding the open guy.”

Missouri plays its best basketball when the ball makes it into the painted area. The Tigers are shooting 55.3% on 2-point attempts and they rank second in the SEC in that department.

It’s about time the Tigers understand where their strengths lie and maximize those instead of trying to fit into the trigger-happy style basketball has become accustomed to with the introduction of Steph Curry and James Harden in the NBA.

Cuonzo Martin needs to address these problems in a hurry. Missouri has not shot at a high enough clip to justify 20 3-point attempts per game. When the Tigers come up against the upper echelon of the SEC, they will need to focus their energy to what they do best: getting the ball in the paint and scoring their way.

Edited by Eli Hoff | ehoff@themaneater.com

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