The Missouri Tigers men’s basketball team kicked off the 2015-2016 campaign last night with a 92-53 exhibition win against Missouri Western at Mizzou Arena.
While the game didn’t necessarily count and Mizzou faced a Division two team, something can be taken away from every game. Here are my takeaways from last night’s matchup.
Great start for the freshmen
Following a difficult 2014-2015 season, we saw a bright future for the Tigers last night. The freshmen on the team combined to shoot 12 for 17, accounting for 35 of the team’s 92 points.
Terrence Phillips slowed down his pace from last week’s scrimmage. As a result, Phillips suffered only one turnover.
“I thought last week he was speeding, going about 75,” said Coach Kim Anderson following the win. “I thought tonight, he was out there on I-70 where it’s down to 60 now, he was pretty under control.”
On defense, Phillips looked quick and athletic; grabbing four steals in the first half. The 5’11 guard also posted five boards, good for third on the team. Phillips made his mark last night on the defensive end. He looked sneakily quick against Missouri Western.
K.J. Walton shot an impressive 6-6 for 17 points, including four three pointers in 17 minutes of play. He heated up in the second half when he knocked down a trio of three-pointers for a personal 9-1 run at the 3:46 mark. Walton attributed much of his success to his teammates, who “kept him motivated” throughout the game.
“I was kind of surprised at how well [K.J. Walton] shot the ball,” spoke Coach Anderson after the game. A pleasant surprise it must be. Walton and Phillips seem to be a nice guard duo for Mizzou this season and for years to come.
Kevin Puryear looked impressive despite not hitting a field goal all game. He snagged seven boards and drew four fouls. Finishing with five points, Puryear appeared as a strong force down low, even though he’s just 6’7.
Cullen VanLeer added to the Tiger shooting spree, knocking down two threes in an eight point effort. VanLeer didn’t really do much aside from his scoring. He looks like a catch and shoot type of player.
Tough time crashing the boards
Last night may have displayed a season-long trend for the vertically challenged Tigers. Mizzou won the rebounding battle 42-36, but struggled for most of the game to outrebound an even shorter Missouri Western team.
After being outrebounded in the first half, Terrence Phillips said “We really just had to box out better.”
Jakeenan Gant led Mizzou with eight rebounds, Ryan Rosburg only tacked on two in fourteen minutes. Puryear’s seven boards helped, but the Tigers will have a tough time crashing the glass for rebounds in SEC play this season.
The loss of Hayden Barnard hurts as of now, as his 6’10 stature would really help with team rebounding. Mizzou allowed seven rebounds to 6’2 Aaron Emmanuel, which cannot be a promising sign.
“I don’t mind them pushing the ball, we have to,” said Anderson. “Our size dictates that we need to play a little bit faster than we did a year ago.”
Impressive production on offense
The pace that Anderson spoke about along with the 30 second shot clock helped Mizzou tack on 92 points, a mark they didn’t come close to last year. The Tigers looked a bit sloppy, but that’s relatively excusable in the first game of the season.
Missouri shot efficiently, going 32-56 (57.1%) from the field. In the second half, where Mizzou totaled 59 points, the team shot 8-11 from three, led by freshmen K.J. Walton and Cullen VanLeer.
“We have more shooters,” said Kim Anderson. “I think we’re capable of scoring more. We have more guys that can score.”
“It was an overall good start,” spoke Coach Anderson after the game. A couple of flaws were seen, but the future looks bright for the Mizzou Tigers.