Several things for Missouri men’s basketball to celebrate in season-opening victory over Oral Roberts.
Jeremiah Tilmon records strong birthday performance and four players scored in double figures
Nov. 25, 2020
Jeremiah Tilmon turned Missouri’s season-opening 91-64 win over Oral Roberts into his own birthday bash as he nearly notched his seventh career double-double.
The Missouri big man, who scored eight points and pulled down 12 rebounds, talked about how he has come to peace with being himself during his four years in Columbia. Tilmon looked at peace Wednesday when he christened the new year, and new season, in style.
“I feel like I was all over the place at first just finding myself on the court and off the court,” Tilmon said. “But now I have more discipline in my life and it’s helped me on the court and off the court, so it just brings me peace of mind just being on the court and being able to relax and not rush things.”
The rest of the team followed in Tilmon’s footsteps. They executed everything coach Cuonzo Martin stressed in the offseason, and picked up where they left off after the 2019-20 season. A mostly full-strength roster delivered pace, shooting and discipline in spades against the Golden Eagles.
As soon as someone in a white Missouri jersey grabbed a defensive rebound, the team attacked immediately. Guards Xavier Pinson, Dru Smith and Drew Buggs made numerous plays in the open court, whether it be driving to the basket or feeding the ball to their teammates.
Despite the faster pace of play during Wednesday’s game, Pinson still thinks the team can run even faster.
“I feel like that’s the pace we kind of want to be at,” Pinson said. “I still honestly don’t think that the pace was there. Our pace is way faster than that in practice, but we’re getting there.”
Missouri made 45.2% of its shots in the first half, then turned it up a notch in the second by draining 60.6% of its field goal attempts. The team’s 91 points matched their season high from last year. Mark Smith scored 16 points in the second half and went a perfect 4-4 on 3s to help the Tigers run away with the game in the second half.
“You see a guy like that get going and you see it spread around the team,” Dru Smith said. “I think just getting that one guy going, tonight it was Mark who really sparked it there in the second half, I think that’s definitely big for us.
Mark Smith had the hot hand in the second half and led the team with 18 points, but the overall scoring load of the team was balanced. Pinson, Dru Smith and Javon Pickett all had double-digit scoring efforts, and the bench churned out 27 points.
On the defensive side of the ball, Missouri committed five fewer fouls than their 2019-20 season average. The Tigers limited the Golden Eagles to just 12 free throws on the night in large part due to Tilmon playing smart defense in the paint. He only picked up one foul in the game, a major step up from a couple of years ago when he averaged over three-and-a-half fouls per contest.
That discipline paired nicely with aggressive rebounding on both ends of the floor. Solid technique used by Missouri’s post players carved out space to grab offensive and defensive boards, which resulted in the Tigers having a 12-rebound advantage over Oral Roberts.
Martin thought his team put in a good performance Wednesday night, but the one area he would like to fix before flying to Connecticut to participate in the Bubbleville tournament is turnovers. His squad gave the ball away 17 times, but Martin said that among the mistakes were some good opportunities that just didn’t work out.
“Half of them were good decisions and half of them we were just a little careless with the ball,” Martin said.
Wednesday night’s victory is only the first game of the season and there is a lot that can happen between now and March. But for the time being, the Tigers had a lot to celebrate Wednesday: a good win, a healthy roster and Tilmon’s birthday.
Edited by Kyle Pinnell | firstname.lastname@example.org