Missouri basketball opens season with high powered offense

The Tigers are putting up offensive numbers unforeseen at the beginning of the year.
Missouri Tigers forward Terrence Phillips (1) attempts a layup against Maryland-Eastern Shore Nov. 15, 2015, at Mizzou Arena.

In the mid-2000s, the Phoenix Suns were the most prolific team in all of basketball. Led by Steve Nash, the Suns averaged 110 points per game, which led the NBA for that season.

Phoenix’s offensive motto was “Seven Seconds or Less.” The term meant that if everything went to plan, the Suns would score within a seven-second time period every time they controlled the ball.

It appears that Kim Anderson and the Missouri Tigers are trying to mimic the Suns early on in their 2015-16 campaign. Despite being just three regular season games and an exhibition game behind them, Mizzou is averaging 78.5 points per game. That is 18 more points than it averaged last season.

The Tigers entered the season unsure of where scoring would come from. They lost two of their top three scorers from the 2014-15 season Johnathan Williams III and Montaque Gill-Caesar to transfers. Together, that pair averaged 21 points per game, which was more than a third of Missouri’s total offense.

To make up for the loss in individual scoring, the Tigers have implemented a new, high powered and teamwork-based offense. With at least two freshmen starting in each of Missouri’s games, Anderson has tried to help his young players out by creating an offense that will give his team easy scoring opportunities.

“We have some guys that can push the ball and more than just one,” Anderson said. “We have some guys who can score.”

The key to the fast-paced offense is freshman point guard Terrence Phillips. Phillips leads the Tigers by always playing with a high level of energy, which inspires his team to work at a high rate.

“The freshmen are energy guys,” Anderson said. “It starts with (Phillips). He’s obviously an enthusiastic guy.”

Phillips wants this year’s team to be different from the Missouri team that finished 9-23 last season. Whereas last year’s team relied on one or two players each game, Phillips wants to make sure the entire team is involved.

“We feel like, the faster we can play with (the team we have), the faster we can just get out and go, (will help us) be in it every night,” Phillips said.

Phillips keeps his teammates involved on the breaks, picking apart the opposing defense with precise passes. He is currently leading the team in assists, averaging 2.75 per game.

The production from the offense is contagious when it comes to the other aspects of the Missouri game plan. The Tigers bring the same pace to their defense, always pressing the player with the ball and creating turnovers that lead to more fast break points.

“When we get going and get playing fast, our defense gets going and we get energetic and we go on runs,” Phillips said.

Mizzou also needs to work quickly in order to minimize its height disadvantage. The average height of the Tigers’ starting five this season is 6-foot-3. For comparison, the average height of the Kentucky Wildcats’ starting five is 6-foot-5.

“Coming into the season, we know we are an undersized team,” Phillips said.

Anderson is in agreement with Phillips. He has been preaching quick ball movement throughout the season.

“I don’t mind them pushing the ball, I think we have to,” Anderson said. “I think our size dictates that we need to try to play a little bit faster than we did a year ago.”

The success of the scrappy team will undoubtedly come down to its tempo. Anderson knows that the Tigers will need to improve their pace as they move forward, but for now, there is nothing that he can frown upon.

“You just have to hope that continues,” Anderson said. “You have to put that performance together 30 or more times, so hopefully we keep doing that.”

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