The “Kim Anderson Book of Basketball” isn’t in the works yet, and for specific reason. Like many, the third-year Missouri coach, who joked about the fanciful book last week, said he doesn’t have enough answers about the game he coaches to be able to put pen to paper.
As of late, an all-team slump has sparked questions for a new chapter Anderson would want to include: responding to slow starts in games. Early offensive struggles have been a detriment to the team and to fans, it turns out.
“I spoke the other day at a luncheon,” Anderson said. “You know, everybody stands up until we score (at home games). A guy threatened to sue because he had to stand up so long he was going to have to see a doctor.”
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Missouri has gone scoreless in the first 1 minute, 30 seconds in all but one game. Against Davidson, in the Tire Pros Invitational that took place in Kissimmee, Fla., sophomore forward Kevin Puryear poured in the team’s first bucket in a speedy 34 seconds. Ever since, the early trouble on offense has continued.
In Missouri’s 62-52 loss to North Carolina Central at home last week, it took 3:36 for Missouri to score. Against Western Kentucky on Saturday, Missouri missed two shots and committed a turnover in the 2:17 that ran off the clock until Puryear scored the team’s first bucket.
Although the Tigers did get back in the win column against the Hilltoppers, Anderson admitted that the early struggles have and will continue to affect the team offensively as long as they persist. That's why he said his staff and his players have "tried different things."
“We’ve tried different warm-up stuff," Anderson said. "(Saturday), I think we were nervous. Now, I’m sure (the players) will deny it, but we’ve just got to get some confidence.”
Sophomore shooting guard Cullen VanLeer denied players were nervous, but he also concurred with his coach when it came to confidence.
The drills in warm-ups have been the same, VanLeer said, but the intensity in which they’ve been run has been different. They want to sweat and take game shots so that “coming out flat,” as freshman forward Willie Jackson put it, isn’t an option.
That was apparent to first-year Western Kentucky coach Rick Stansbury, who complimented Missouri on Saturday. From 2014-16, Stansbury faced off against the Tigers as an assistant coach at Texas A&M, so he was familiar with Mizzou.
“I think there’s no question — (they’ve made) lots of progress,” Stansbury said. “Kim has got some steadiness now. I feel like he’s got some steadiness in his program.”
Steadiness, sure, as Anderson boasts a roster recruited by his staff alone, but many issues do remain.
Missouri ranks 241st out of 351 Division I teams in points scored per game, averaging 71.1. The Tigers also rank 282nd on Kenpom.com in points per 100 possessions with 97.2 — the worst of any team from a Power 5 conference.
In recent games, Anderson has tried to answer to both the offensive and early-game woes with an emphasis on pushing the tempo.
“We’ve talked about that all year,” Anderson said. “I think at times we get a little bit stagnant. If they make a basket, we can still go. You can still run. You may have to stop, but we’re trying to play a little bit faster so we can maybe get the ball in the basket.”
Jackson has appreciated the want to get out and run.
“I love running up and down,” Jackson said, “and I think we’re at a very high level when we do it. A lot of good things happen.”
With a stifling defensive team in No. 20 Arizona coming to town on Saturday, the quicker Missouri scores, the better. Putting this to the test in a tune-up game Tuesday against Miami (Ohio) would be nice — both for the team and the man at the luncheon.
Alec Lewis: @alec_lewis