Trust is a difficult thing to develop.
Obviously, that statement transcends sports, but in the context of the Missouri men’s basketball team, it’s critical during these closing weeks of the season in the chase for a program-record sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
JuniorsJabari Brown, who is the SEC’s leading scorer in conference play (21.5) and is bidding to become the first Missouri player in 13 years to average 20 points in a season
, and Jordan Clarkson, who averages 18.4 points, have carried coach Frank Haith’s squad throughout the season.
But as the ups and downs of conference play wore on, Brown and Clarkson started pressing, trying to do too much and hesitant to involve teammates in the offense at times.
That trend changed against Mississippi State on Saturday, and it needs to continue against Texas A and the remainder of the season — however long that might be,
“We talked about them trusting their teammates,” Haith said after the 85-66 win against Mississippi State. “When you start to press, you feel the weight of the world and I think our last game both those guys did. It was very evident watching it on tape, and I watched it with just those two guys, wanting them to understand that you’re going to take pressure off yourself if you just embrace your teammates. They did a good job of that today and hopefully it’s something we can build on.”
Of course, it helps when Missouri’s frontcourt make 15 of 16 shots.
“It’s much easier for (Brown and Clarkson) to pass to us when they see that we’re finishing,” sophomore Ryan Rosburg said.
Sharing the basketball (and shot-making from the bigs) will be important at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Texas A at Mizzou Arena. Here are a few keys to a Senior Night victory:1. Expect Superman
Borrowing from one of Kansas City’s best high school girls basketball coaches, Missouri must expect Superman to emerge from the visitors’ locker room.
Texas A will be depleted without Fabyon Harris, who fainted during a shoot-around Saturday before a win against Mississippi and spent three days in the hospital. He did not travel for the Missouri game.
“Fabyon Harris has been a guy that’s been a thorn in our side since he’s been there,” Haith said.
It was Harris’ three-pointer that delivered an Aggies win last season in College Station, Texas.
Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Shawn Smith also missed the victory against the Rebels. He’s away from the team for personal reasons and may not play against the Tigers.
Still, Missouri can’t afford to assume that means the Aggies will roll over.2. Contain Jamal Jones
The only Texas A player averaging in double-figure scoring is 6-foot-8 junior guard Jamal Jones, who scored 21 in a victory against Mississippi. He’s clearly the Aggies’ best option on offense.
Texas A, which is 14-3 when scored in double figures, doesn’t shot the ball particularly well from three-point range.
The Aggies, who deploy a lot of ball screens and run deep into the shot clock on offense, rank 12th in the SEC in three-point shooting (32.0).
Not that that’s mattered against Missouri. Mississippi State, which ranks 13th from long range (31.0), bombed in a season-high 10 threes against the Tigers.3. Be patient, efficient on offense
Texas A boasts the SEC’s top three-point defense, limiting opponents to 29.2 percent on the season. The Aggies rank third in overall field-goal percentage defense (40.1) behind Kentucky and Georgia and just ahead of Florida.
Missouri would be wise not to settle for shots in the shot clock and force Texas A to defend.
Of course, the Tigers also have to get out in transition when possible and claim as many easy points as possible against the Aggies, whose scoring defense (62.5) ranks second to Florida in the conference.