Missouri beats Miami (Ohio) despite turning ball over 17 times
Junior Kevin Puryear finished with 20 points to lead the Tigers.
Dec. 06, 2017
At the start of the second half of an otherwise quiet night at Mizzou Arena on Tuesday, Cuonzo Martin’s voice boomed through the gymnasium, yelling “Hands! Hands!”
Martin wanted his players to keep their hands up on defense. But on another level, he was really asking for better energy from his Tigers squad.
Better energy is exactly what he got, as Missouri got over a lackluster start and used its interior presence in the second half to defeat the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks 70-51.
After the game, Martin was still not happy with his team’s overall effort in the contest.
“I thought [Miami] set the tone and that the team that played the hardest didn’t win the game,” Martin said.
Missouri led 36-24 at halftime but was tied 10-10 with the Redhawks halfway through the first half after turning the ball over five times in the first 10 minutes. Two layups and two made free throws from junior forward Kevin Puryear helped the Tigers snap out of the funk, however, and back-to-back 3s from senior Jordan Barnett and graduate transfer Kassius Robertson at the 4:02 mark were enough to open up Missouri’s lead to double digits.
Despite his strong play, Puryear said after the game that Missouri’s first-half effort was poor.
“I thought the first 10 minutes of the first half were pretty slow for us,” Puryear said. “Luckily we had Kassius [Robertson] and [Barnett] make some really good shots down the stretch and that really turned our defense up, but I think they really punched us in the mouth in the first half.”
Puryear finished with 20 points and shot a perfect 6 for 6 from the free-throw line to lead the Tigers on the offensive end. Freshman Jeremiah Tilmon, Barnett and Robertson also finished in double figures, and the Tigers improved to 7-2 on the season.
While Missouri’s scoring attack appeared balanced on the scoresheet, the team suffered from sloppy guard play all game long and never got into a prolonged offensive rhythm. Junior Jordan Geist was the only guard who didn’t turn the ball over, and freshman Blake Harris, who started the game at point guard, had four turnovers. Robertson had five turnovers of his own, as both he and Harris had a few passes sail out of bounds or into the hands of Redhawks defenders. As a team, Missouri turned the ball over 17 times, turnovers that Puryear and Martin referred to as “careless.”
Missouri’s defense was strong almost all night, however. The Tigers held the Redhawks to 32 percent shooting, including a dismal 21 percent clip from the 3-point line. Missouri also contained Miami’s leading scorer, Nike Sibande, as the freshman guard finished with nine points on 4-for-13 shooting and made just one of his five 3-point attempts.
Freshman Jontay Porter had his second straight off night and looked out of sync for much of the contest. The big man tied his season high in turnovers with four and scored two points while registering two assists and eight rebounds. Tilmon had a much more efficient game, though, playing 25 minutes and committing only one personal foul while registering a block to go with his 12 points.
Puryear said Tilmon staying on the floor will be a key to Missouri’s success going forward.
“He’s really just a presence,” Puryear said. “He affects the game in so many ways. His footwork, being strong down low, blocking shots, rebounding, all of those things are why we need him in the game. He’s done a really good job … of doing the small things to keep himself out of foul trouble.”
Martin agreed that Tilmon’s improved discipline is a good sign, but he wants his young big man to continue to play hard.
“In [being careful about fouls], he’s not as aggressive rebounding,” Martin said. “You still need to be aggressive, but it’s a very fine line. I didn’t think he was very assertive at all.”
Missouri will continue its four-game homestand on Saturday against the Green Bay Phoenix. The game will tip off at 8 p.m.
Edited by Eli Lederman | email@example.com