Could have been worse: Arizona too much for Mizzou in Hawaii
Not often is a 19-point loss by the Missouri Tigers considered a decent showing, especially in recent seasons.
But times have changed in Columbia. There's a new coach, Kim Anderson, and a lot of new -- and young -- players. Under those circumstances, a 72-53 loss to the third-ranked Arizona Wildcats can't be viewed as that disappointing.
The Tigers certainly did not embarrass themselves and they stayed within shouting distance of the Wildcats for much of the game. Missouri took the quick lead, was tied with 4:11 left in the first half and trailed by a respectable 32-25 at the half.
Arizona scored the first five points after intermission to build the lead to double digits but Missouri still hung around. The Tigers trailed by nine with 10 minutes to go and after the Wildcats opened a 19-point advantage, Missouri cut it to 13. Arizona took its largest lead, 21 points, with less than a minute to go before the Tigers' Keanau Post made two free throws with 3 seconds left for the final points.
Missouri will face Purdue at 1 p.m. Tuesday in a consolation semifinal at the Maui Invitational. Purdue lost to Kansas State 88-79 on Monday.
TIGERS STRUGGLE TO HOLD ONTO THE BALL
The Tigers out-rebounded Arizona and shot just as well until the closing minutes. The difference in the stats was the turnover totals. Missouri finished with 17, Arizona with only six. The Tigers committed five turnovers in the first seven minutes and didn't improve much the rest of the game. With eight minutes left, Arizona had scored 22 of its 54 points off Mizzou turnovers. The Wildcats finished with a 24-8 advantage in points off turnovers.
Against Arizona, one of the nation's top defensive teams, this might have been expected. But this wasn't the first game that Missouri struggled to hold onto the ball. The Tigers finished with more turnovers than assists for the third time in four games and for the season, and now have 42 assists to 55 turnovers.
J3 LOOKS MORE COMFORTABLE
Maybe it's because he's no longer a freshman. Maybe's it the work he put in on his jump shot over the summer. Maybe it's the absence of Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown. Likely, it's a little of everything. Whatever the reason, Johnathan Williams III looked more aggressive offensively against Arizona than he has since arriving in Columbia.
One play typified the difference. Williams, a left-hander, took the ball from the right side about 12 feet out, dribbled to the basket and banked in about an eight-foot scoop shot with his right hand. This was a shot he would not have thought about attempting last season. Williams missed both of his 3-point attempts against Arizona but still, the shots looked better than last year. He appears to be playing with more confidence. After Williams made both of his 3-pointers against Oral Roberts last week, Anderson acknowledged as much. "He didn't mess around with it, he just shot it. He didn't have time to think. He just took the shot he's practiced many, many times," Anderson said.
One area where Williams needs more work: Free throws. Williams missed three of his four attempts, dropping him to five of 10 for the season. He shot 56.5 percent from the line last season.
THE NEXT CLARKSON OR BROWN
Missouri doesn't want freshman Montaque Gill-Caesar to be as shot-hungry as were the Tigers' leading scorers last season, but Anderson might want the 6-6 guard they call "Teckie" to be a little more aggressive looking for his shot.
Gill-Caesar showed he can be effective driving to the basket as well as shooting from the 3-point line with a team-high 10 points in the first half. He finished with 13 after taking only one shot in the second half to lead the Tigers' scoring for the third time.