Missouri coach Frank Haith said Friday that the Tigers needed more production out of the post. He said he told the post players the same thing.
“Yeah, more than enough,” sophomore forward Ryan Rosburg said. “We were playing bad.”
The Tigers (15-4, 3-3 SEC) changed that early Saturday, getting the big men involved early and often in Missouri’s 82-74 win over South Carolina (7-12, 0-6 SEC).
The Tigers led the Gamecocks in points in the paint (34-16), rebounds (33-32) and blocks (3-2); it’s the first time Missouri has swept all three categories in Southeastern Conference play this season.
Freshman forward Johnathan Williams and Rosburg combined to go 3-for-10 from the field for six points in Missouri’s last game, a loss at Louisiana State on Tuesday night. Rosburg said that the big guys would stay after practice or get together on off days to work on finishing.
“We weren’t pulling our weight,” Rosburg said. “We have some great guards. We needed to step up and produce.”
Saturday, the two scored eight points each, six more than Rosburg’s average. Williams grabbed six rebounds and Rosburg added four more and the two accounted for all three of Missouri’s blocked shots.
Rosburg and Williams either scored or assisted on Missouri’s first three possessions of the game. Rosburg said it’s always part of the game plan to get post players involved early.
“I think it always is, but sometimes we just don’t do it,” Rosburg said. “We definitely try to, and when it does come to us early, it’s kind of a relief. Not that we want the ball so desperately, but once you get going in the flow of the game, you get a couple of shots early in the game and it kind of comes with a rhythm. When you get your first shot late in the first half, in the second half, you kind of just feel out of it a little bit, so it was good that it came to us early.”
A productive post game helps the guards, Haith said. On the first possession of the game, Williams backed down his defender before tossing a fastball to senior guard Earnest Ross, who hit a 3-pointer from the corner.
Said senior guard Jordan Clarkson, the big guys don’t just help going inside out, but can be a good option when help defense comes on a drive.
“Teams are going to converge on us when we’re driving, so we just have to make the plays to our big guys and they have to finish them,” Clarkson said. “I think they did a good job of that today.”
Rosburg said today could mark a turning point for the big guys.
“Sure, I hope so,” Rosburg said. “We just have to keep working. We don’t really wait for one thing to happen to turn it all around, it has to be a process and I think we took a good step tonight.”