Mizzou had this game won, and then they had this game lost, and finally they pulled it out. That’s the easiest way to explain what happened in Mizzou’s 89-85 overtime victory against Mississippi State. The details are a little fuzzier, more ridiculous, and don’t make nearly as much sense.
1) That was the dumbest, most entertaining, and most ridiculous finish I’ve seen in quite some time. Mizzou played about as well as it could in the first half. The Tigers shot 60% from the field, 58% from beyond the arc, and committed just three turnovers. They took a 42-33 lead into the half as a result.
Mississippi State put together an early push, but Mizzou responded and maintained a 5-8 point lead for the majority of the second half. With 1:37 to play, the Tigers had a 79-67 lead and the game felt good as over. The Tigers were going to win their 4th straight, and they would improve to 7-5 in the SEC. Not so fast, my friend.
All the late-game flaws showed up. The inbounding against the press. The passing against the press. The late-game turtling of the half-court offense. Bad fouls. That’s how the impossible happened. Mississippi State went on a 12-0 run to finish regulation. Overtime. The meltdown was nearly complete. It’s the West Virginia game all over again.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
Mississippi State continued its run pulling out to an 84-79 lead in overtime. Mizzou rebounded and tied it up with a minute to play. A free throw by Mississippi State. A possession for Mizzou with 40 seconds left.
Then, the shot.
— Andrew Carter (@Andrew__Carter) February 10, 2018
It doesn’t get much better than that. Kevin Puryear drills a three from the corner to win the game. He missed his previous 12 from beyond the arc.
With 2 minutes to play in regulation, I thought there was no way Mizzou could lose. With 2 minutes to play in overtime, I thought there was no way they could win. What a game.
2) If I was a coach, I would pressure Missouri the entire game. West Virginia. Illinois. Arkansas. Almost Mississippi State. The teams who pressure Missouri have success against them. I don’t understand why teams are so hesitant to do so earlier in the game.
I mean, look at this stat, from Matt Harris of Rock M Nation.
As for late game lulls. We saw it Arkansas. It's happened in each of the last four games, too.
And while KP bailed #Mizzou out today, Tigers are 330th nationally for PPP on side out of bounds plays and 246th on BLOBs.
That's a recipe for trouble.
— Matthew Harris (@MattJHarris85) February 10, 2018
Mizzou was the better team. It should have won that game. But the weakness is clear: The Tigers can’t break the full court press. Heck, they struggle getting the ball into play when opponents press. It’s tough to watch. And I’m not sure there’s an obvious answer as to how it gets fixed.
3) Mizzou’s backcourt came up big. Kassius Robertson and Jordan Geist combined for 39 points on 10-for-19 shooting from the field. They added a total of 11 rebounds, 5 assists, and just 4 turnovers. That’s about as well as those two have played in any individual game this season. Without their contributions, Mizzou doesn’t win this game.
4) Mizzou is well on its way to making the NCAA Tournament. With the win, Mizzou finds itself at 17-8 on the year, and 7-5 in SEC play. The magic numbers to get into the tournament are probably 20 wins and 10 in conference play. There are six regular season games to play, and at least one SEC Tournament game. According to KenPom, the Tigers are favored in 4 of their final six games, and they will likely be favored against whomever they play in the first round of the SEC Tournament – especially considering it will be played in St. Louis this year.
Barring a collapse resembling what we saw in the final minute Saturday against Mississippi State, this is an NCAA Tournament team. Both Cuonzo Martin and Ben Howland acknowledged as much after the game.
Martin on getting in: “That’s not a debate. We’re one of those teams.”
Howland: “They’re already in. They’re an NCAA Tournament team.”
I think they’re right. Mizzou’s resume includes top 50 wins over Tennessee & Kentucky, nine wins over top 100 teams, and only one “bad” loss (Illinois). That’s a tournament resume right there.
5) The #RallyForRhyan game is the best annual event Mizzou athletics puts on. Brad Loos is as genuine a person as I’ve met since I got into sports media. His daughter, Rhyan, has been through more in her seven years of her life than any person should in a lifetime. It was great to watch her enjoy one of these games for the first time without any signs of cancer.
Mizzou picked up a nice win today, but the real victory was the money raised in support of pediatric cancer research. Mizzou announced a total of $60,000 was raised for the cause. That shouldn’t go overlooked.