Sloppy Tigers struggle with ball security in win over Miami (Ohio)

“We’ve gotta clean that up if we want to be a successful team,” Kassius Robertson said.

Maneater File Photo

“We won the ballgame. We did enough to win the game.”

Cuonzo Martin’s brief opening statement following Missouri’s 70-51 win over Miami (Ohio) on Tuesday night said it all. His Tigers had won, but he was underwhelmed by the way they had done it.

Despite the 19-point margin of victory, there were plenty of errors for Martin to nitpick postgame. Among the most glaring was the turnover margin. Going up against a Miami team that entered the game in the bottom half of the country in forced turnovers, Missouri committed 17 turnovers on the night, tied for the second most in a single game on the season.

On a night where guard Jordan Geist showed improvement with zero turnovers, Missouri’s other three primary guards — Blake Harris, Kassius Robertson and Terrence Phillips — combined for a whopping 11. The inability of Missouri’s guards to hold onto the basketball sputtered the Tigers’ offense in the early going and slowed Missouri down for the entire game.

After the game, forward Kevin Puryear said the Tigers were careless with the basketball and needed to do a better job of holding onto the ball in order to compete with the nation’s better teams.

“I think we were rushing a little bit too much,” Puryear said. “It’s one thing we’ve really got to fine-tune and eliminate. We shouldn’t really have any unforced turnovers, you know, if we want to take that next step as a team. I think that really just boils down to making the right plays and being smarter.”

Robertson was one of the main culprits on the night, turning the ball over a team-leading five times. The veteran leader mentioned that ball security has been heavily emphasized in practice and that not having that carry over into a game was frustrating.

“We know we’re a much different team when we take care of the ball,” Robertson said. “When we’re playing conference play, or any team really, we give them a chance to be in the game [by turning the ball over]. That’s why [Miami] kind of came back a little bit when we went on that little turnover run, and we’ve gotta clean that up if we want to be a successful team.”

Just like Puryear, Martin said his team was careless with the basketball on Tuesday night.

“[Miami is] not a team that pressures you,” Martin said. “It’s just about making decisions about how you handle the ball.”

Martin also noted that turnovers from his big men playing on the perimeter were a product of the team’s spacing offense that has everyone touching the ball and are growing pains that he’ll have to deal with.

“You’ve got some guys handling the ball who probably aren't used to handling it as much on the perimeter, making decisions and making plays,” Martin said. “Jontay [Porter] handles the ball, Kevin [Puryear] handles the ball and it’s really just making good decisions, being able to handle [it].”

On his freshman guard Harris, who once again started for the Tigers but played just 17 minutes while turning the ball over four times, Martin expressed patience. After the Tigers played in the Advocare Invitational in late November, Martin said Harris’ development wouldn’t occur overnight and that he’d have to work for his minutes. He reiterated that Tuesday.

“He’s just got to keep getting better, you know; he’s a freshman,” Martin said. “It’s not easy, it’s not easy at all. It’s a hard, hard thing. You just can’t say ‘I want wisdom’; that comes with time and sometimes you have to go through something to gain that.”

Edited by Joe Noser | jnoser@themaneater.com

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