Every week, junior guard Phil Pressey heaves up thousands upon thousands of shots from the “kill spots.”
The violently-named flip-shots, jumpers, runners and floaters come from the Dallas native’s favorite scoring locations — the top of the key, both elbows and just inside the lane — and play paramount roles for where the preseason All-American predominantly known for his passing, gets his points.
“That’s where I try to get to most of the game and that’s where I try to shoot most of my shots,” he says. “Whether I miss it or make it, I know I’ve made it thousands, twenty thousands of times. I know I can make that shot so I continue to shoot it.”
It was from two of Pressey’s favorite “kill spots” where he found success and failure in Missouri’s (17-6, 6-4 Southeastern Conference) up and down week in conference play.
With 7.7 seconds left in Thursday’s 70-68 loss at Texas A&M, Pressey attempted a 3-pointer from inside the right wing to grab ahold of a one-point lead. But the shot rimmed out and the rebound bounced around the congested paint until time expired, sealing a bitter fifth-straight road loss for the Tigers that knocked them from the top 25 rankings.
Pressey came roaring back Saturday in a 98-79 romp over Ole Miss with 11 of his 22 points in the first eight minutes all coming from “kill spots.” His first bucket of the game, a three from the top of the key just 2:15 in, gave MU the lead for good.
“I wasn’t surprised that I made that shot (against Ole Miss), and I was surprised that I missed the one at Texas A&M, because I made it so many times," he said. "I’m willing to take those shots, and I’m willing to take the criticism if I miss it.”
And the criticism rained in after Pressey’s game ending sequence in College Station. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch pointed out “the shot came at a time MU needed two to tie,” while the Kansas City Star tagged Pressey as the player “who helped MU’s 70-68 loss at Texas A&M come to fruition.”
The loss marked the Tigers', and Pressey’s, lowest ebb in league play where Missouri has yet to win a game away from Mizzou Arena and total scoring has dropped from 78.4 points per game to 74.5. Pressey’s scoring average has dropped from 13.8 points per game to 9.2.
“All he does is work on his shot,” says senior forward Alex Oriakhi, a high school teammate of Pressey’s. “I’d definitely like to see him shoot the ball more. I tell him, ‘Shoot the ball, you work on it so much after practice. Shoot the ball.’ And I think he’s a little unselfish to a fault sometimes. Sometimes he’ll have a wide open layup and he’s looking to pass so sometimes I just tell him to shoot the ball a little more because he’s capable of making threes.”
After his struggles against the Aggies, coach Frank Haith reiterated that the key for Pressey is to improve the game of those around him and stay away from early “kill” shots, especially when deep three-pointers are open early in the shot clock.
“Phil knows what he needs to do,” Haith said. “Phil’s one of the leaders on our team. He wants to win. I’ve said this many times, as long as he focuses on, ‘my play is to make sure I’m getting the best out of my teammates,’ and if he focuses on that, that’ll kick-start everything.”