University of Missouri

Missouri’s freshmen basketball players are slowly growing up

Missouri guard Tramaine Isabell scored aganist Arkansas guard Anton Beard during Wednesday’s game.
Missouri guard Tramaine Isabell scored aganist Arkansas guard Anton Beard during Wednesday’s game. The Associated Press

The performance of Missouri’s freshmen provided a silver lining Wednesday during a 15-point loss at Arkansas.

The Tigers weren’t particularly competitive in the second half, never drawing closer than 12 points in the final 19 minutes, 18 seconds, but the Razorbacks also never delivered a true knockout blow.

Missouri’s freshmen, who combined for 48 points in the 84-69 loss, were a big reason why.

“Freshmen have to step up sometime,” said freshman guard Montaque Gill-Caesar. “Today was one of those games.”

Freshman guard Tramaine Isabell, who returned from a five-game suspension, scored a team-high 13 points, while Gill-Caesar and freshman forward Jakeenan Gant each scored 11.

Freshman forward D’Angelo Allen chipped in nine points and freshman guard Namon Wright added four points.

It marked only the third time in MU’s history that three or more freshmen reached double figures in the same game, according to team historian Tom Orf.

Laurence Bowers, Marcus Denmon and Kim English achieved the feat Jan. 14, 2009, against Colorado. That trio and freshman Miguel Paul also reached double figures versus SIU-Edwardsville on Dec. 27, 2008.

“As always we did some good things, we just didn’t do enough,” coach Kim Anderson said. “I thought our young guys, once they settled down, they played without fear for the most part and that’s an encouraging sign.”

Youth certainly has been a big part of the Tigers’ season story and season-long struggles — including the current 12-game losing streak, which matches the longest losing streak in program history.

A scuffling offense also rates highon Missouri’s list of problems.

The Tigers, who average 62.1 points per game and only 58.8 points in SEC play, have had difficulty scoring.

Missouri is tied for 292nd nationally with an average of 0.96 points per possession.

Only Nebraska (0.95), Texas Tech (0.95) and Rutgers (0.91) among major-conference teams are worse.

Still, the Tigers are even worse defensively, ranking 297th by allowing 1.07 points per possession.

Indiana is tied with Missouri, and only DePaul (1.09) and Washington State (1.11) are worse among major-conference squads.

Of course, youth also factors into that both from an experience standpoint and in terms of MU’s physical maturity.

“Our defense wasn’t very good …,” Anderson said after the loss to Arkansas. “We went to a zone later on, but even in the zone we just couldn’t control them from getting the ball to the basket. I think part of it is physicality. You look at the way (guard Michael) Qualls is built and you look at the way (forward Bobby) Portis is built and we’re hopefully a year away from being built like that.”

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter at @todpalmer.

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