December 2, 2009

Ready to run again

What happened in South Padre? According to Kim English, it was real simple.

"We allowed them to dictate the tempo," said the Tiger sophomore. "If we're forced to play slow-down basketball, we're not that good of a team. We're better in the open court running up and down."

Tempo is perhaps the most used word in discussing Mike Anderson's program. When the Tigers can run, they can be really good. When the game comes to a standstill, the Tigers can be very average.

Laurence Bowers said Anderson compared Missouri's two weekend games to playing chess. He called them "possession games."

"That's not for us," Bowers said. "Coach said we need to have our four turns to the other team's one turn with the basketball. We're a team of spurts. Possession by possession, that's boring. That's just like playing chess."

The numbers bear out the point. Since the start of the 2008 season, Missouri is 27-2 when it scores at least 75 points. The Tigers are just 8-6 when being held below that number. Missouri survived a slow game against Old Dominion, winning 66-61, but couldn't do the same in falling 59-52 to Richmond.

The Spiders made the most of their turns, shooting 40.4%. Missouri made only 32.7% of its shots. In fact, in those 13 games where they have scored 75 or fewer, the Tigers have shot below 40% eight times. They are 3-and-5 in those games.

"When you don't hit shots, you can't set up your press," Bowers said. "We weren't really able to get into our full court press and that kind of slowed us down."

Tonight, they will follow Tiller to Nashville for a matchup with Vanderbilt, which started the season ranked in the top 20 before a loss to Cincinnati. Like the Tigers, the Commodores like to run.

"That's great for us. They like to run and we're happy to run," English said. "I was glad when I was watching their game against Arizona and they were pressing. That's gonna be a fun, exciting game, how we like to play."

In its four wins, Vandy is averaging 79.75 points per game. The Commodores scored 58 in their only loss. It looks like the Tigers will be able to speed things up again. Music to their ears.

According to English, no more "old school, Princeton, slow down, George Mikan basketball."

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