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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Tigers seek slower tempo on offense

New coach Frank Haith is hoping his team adapts to his half-court system.

Nov. 4, 2011

When former coach Mike Anderson bolted from Missouri for Arkansas, his famed “Fastest 40 Minutes of basketball” were "gone in 60 seconds" from Missouri hoops.

Gone is the non-stop full-court press that often surrendered two-on-one fast-break opportunities and left Tiger big men in foul trouble. Gone is the chaotic, turnover-prone offense. Gone is the constant stream of substitutions and 11-man rotation.

The Tigers continue to run an up-tempo offense, but new coach Frank Haith is slowing the pace to implement his half-court approach.

“We can score in transition," Haith said. "That’s something we’re used to and good at but I really want our guys to understand we’ve got to run offense. I want them to execute moving the ball and getting inside and out.”

Through two pre-season exhibition games, the team has adapted nicely to the new style on both ends of the court.

In their pre-season opener Sunday against Missouri Southern State, the Tigers played man-to-man defense throughout, forcing 26 turnovers while holding MSSU to 37 percent shooting.

The Tigers held Truman State to 34 percent from the field and forced 17 turnovers Wednesday night.

Offensively, the Tigers primarily featured a four-guard lineup during both games, with a starting five of Phil Pressey, Matt Pressey, Marcus Denmon, English and Ricardo Ratliffe.

“We've been working since the spring, and we've been putting the time in and of course there's always going to be some adjustment period,” junior guard Michael Dixon said. “I feel we hit the ground rolling and we really have adapted to the new playing style on offense as well as defense."

MU has shot 55 percent from the field in their first two exhibition games. The numbers are impressive, albeit against lesser competition, but the offense has shown the ability to heat up and carry the team from time to time.

“It’s getting better, and we’re still learning,” Haith said about his offense. “It’s still a work in progress. Kim (English) hasn’t yet played the way he’s capable of in these two games but I know he will be able to.”

English, a 6-foot-6-inch senior guard who was thrust into playing power forward when Laurence Bowers was lost for the season, shot just 2-9 from the field and 1-7 from three point range in MU’s 87-48 dismissal of Truman State.

Much is riding on English’s performance this season. He is a vastly undersized power forward for Big 12 standards, which will hamper the team down-low, especially when it comes to defensive rebounding.

If English can regain the offensive prowess he displayed his first two years at Missouri, the opposition will have just as much trouble stopping the Tigers as the Tigers will have stopping them.

The season-ending torn ACL injury suffered by Bowers, last year’s team leader in blocks and rebounds, leaves MU with eight scholarship players, only three of which are above 6 feet, 6 inches.

The situation is less than ideal, but English said enough talent remains.

“Coach Haith had some tough years at Miami,” English said. “He had a couple of good players at Miami but he’s never had an allotment of really talented guys how he does here.”

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