COLUMBIA — Some came in transition, the result of steals or deflections. Others came at close range, or were wide-open jumpers caused by extra passes.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
Regardless, Missouri coach Frank Haith noticed one thing, in particular, about the array of baskets the Tigers scored during a crucial 20-2 second-half run Tuesday in Missouri’s 71-65 win over South Carolina.
“There were no bad shots going in,” Haith said. “I thought we took way better shots during that stretch.”
The kind of shots Haith has been trying to get his team to take more consistently all season.
“Our offensive execution is not where it needs to be,” said Haith, whose Tigers are 14-4 heading into a 4 p.m. Saturday home game against Vanderbilt. “We need longer possessions to start games … so we can get better shots and get paint touches. That’s something we have to attack and get better at.”
At first glimpse, Missouri’s offensive stats look fine. The Tigers rank fourth in the 14-team Southeastern Conference in points per game (75.3) and seventh in field-goal percentage (44.1). But Missouri is also 10th in three-point shooting (32.6 percent) despite attempting the fifth-most in the conference, and has been held to its two worst scoring performances (49 and 52 points) in both its league road games, both losses.
“We’ve been our own worst enemy in that we’ve taken a lot of quick shots and not running good offense,” Haith said. “We’re breaking our offense off and taking contested shots. We’ve got to give our offense more of a chance.”
Meanwhile, the specter of last season’s group — easily one of the nation’s most-efficient offensively — still looms. That team, led by accurate shooters and floor-spacers Kim English and Marcus Denmon and an inside scoring machine in Ricardo Ratliffe, averaged 80.3 points per game and shot 50.4 percent from the field, tied for the second-best in the nation.
“I think those guys, even though that was their best season, they played together for a couple more years than we have,” said sophomore guard Jabari Brown, who is averaging 14.4 points per game since becoming eligible in December. “I feel like we’ve got a lot of new pieces. We’re still trying to get our chemistry up, and that will come (with time). But that team was very good at passing up a good shot for a great shot.”
Brown was one of several transfers on this season’s team who got a chance to bond on the scout team last season, along with guards Earnest Ross (Auburn) and Keion Bell (Pepperdine).
But Brown was emphatic that it still takes time for guys to mesh offensively and learn where each guy likes the ball, much the way last year’s team did.
“Phil (Pressey) knew that if he drove, Kim was going to be in that corner,” Brown said. “And Kim knew that if the guy came in hard, he’d take that one dribble and Marcus was over there spotting up, too.”
So in the meantime, they work. Haith said he only knows one way to teach a team to recognize a good shot.
“All you’ve got to do is more tape work,” Haith said. “They’ve got to see themselves (on film) and you’ve got to emphasize it, challenge them, put restrictions on them … (like) we need a paint touch before you take a shot (or) we need five passes before we take a shot.”