Through three games against a trio of low-major opponents, Missouri junior point guard Phil Pressey is averaging a team-leading 15.3 points and 4.7 assists per game, with a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He's also picked up 5 steals, playing a team-high 32 minutes per game, and is shooting 46% from the field, and 42% from behind the arc.
As Pressey and the Tigers prepare to head out to the Bahamas to play Stanford on Thursday in the Battle 4 Atlantis, ShowMeMizzou.com spoke with the SEC preseason Player of the Year selection to get his thoughts on Missouri's start to the season.
"I feel like once we just put it all together for a full game, we'll be alright," said Pressey. "We just have to be more consistent."
"Last year's team, we had played together for a lot longer time than this team has," explained Pressey, comparing this year's team to the Missouri squad that won 30 games a year ago. "I was the youngest guy on that team."
"With this team, the freshmen are young, and the transfers are trying to figure out how to fit themselves into the system," continued Pressey. "I mean, we're going to have our ups and downs, but hopefully we can figure out how to put two halves together, and come out with wins like we have been."
The Missouri staff is intent on developing and establishing Alex Oriakhi as a low post scoring threat, and they've emphasized that Pressey and the Tigers get the ball to Oriakhi down low. In the early going, that hasn't always looked pretty, but the coaching staff believes that it will make them "a better team" in the long run.
"Alex told me from the beginning that he doesn't need me to get him the ball for him to score," explained Pressey. "He can go rebound and score. So him telling me that just tells me a lot, that he's not worried about scoring. But I know he can score in the low post, so I try to get him the ball as much as possible, and try to run plays for him, to keep him happy down there."
Coach Haith said that Phil Pressey does "whatever we need him to do". But, don't expect Flip to continue to lead the Tigers in scoring.
"We have a lot of guys on this team that can go get twenty," explained Pressey, addressing his approach to scoring. "It just depends on the game………………………………………… At times I feel like I have to score. Our first couple of games, we started off kind of slow, so I felt like I had to get my team going. But other than that, it just depends. Hopefully, we can get it going in the first half."
Pressey attributed the Tigers' early-season success in the second half of games to Coach Haith's halftime coaching.
"Whatever Coach tells us to do at halftime, we try to do it," explained Pressey. "And, we've played better in the second half."
Through their first three games, the Tigers have held their collective opposition to just under 34% from the field, and have out-rebounded their opponents by an average of 49-35. Early on, it appears that Missouri is establishing an identity as a being very good defensively. Yet, there's considerable room for improvement on the defensive end. Missouri's opponents have shot 36% from behind the 3-PT arc, an unacceptably high percentage from the Tigers' perspective. Missouri has at times been slow to close out on perimeter shooters, and the Tigers have often failed to block out on the boards. These are just a couple of fundamentals on a sizable list of things that Assistant Coach Dave Leitao said that the Tigers "need to clean up".