Missouri struggled against Tennessee’s zone Saturday in a 59-51 loss.
The Tigers, 7-10, are going to see a lot more zone Wednesday night against Texas A&M at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas (6 p.m. on SEC Network).
Missouri is looking to end a three-game skid in SEC play since stunning LSU in the conference opener.
One major key toward scratching the win column again, and snapping an eight-game road losing streak, will be getting Johnathan Williams III going again.
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Williams, a 6-foot-9 sophomore forward from Memphis and Missouri’s leading scorer at 12.7 points per game, only attempted one shot in the second half against the Volunteers.
The Tigers had difficulty working the ball inside, but perhaps learned some lessons about executing against the zone that will pay off against the Aggies.
Williams averaged 17.6 points during an eight-game stretch beginning with a 65-61 win Dec. 2 against Southeast Missouri and continuing through that 74-67 overtime win Jan. 8 against LSU.
His production has tapered off during the last three games.
Williams was four of nine from the field against both Auburn and Tennessee sandwiched around a one-for-13 performance at Kentucky.
The biggest difference has been Williams’ ability to get to the free-throw line.
During his eight-game hot streak, Williams averaged nine free-throw attempts per game. He’s only had six free-throw attempts combined in the last three games, including none against Tennessee.
Williams also has averaged four turnovers per game.
He wasn’t terrible against Auburn or Tennessee, but Missouri needs Williams to be good most nights to have a chance to win.
As Anderson said, he’s probably been forcing some things, “but he’s kind of got the green light to force a few things if he thinks he needs to” because he’s the Tigers’ best scoring option right now.
“He’s always going to get a lot of attention, because he’s the guy on our team that has the potential to probably score the most points every night,” Anderson said.
Williams can’t do it alone.
Point guards Wes Clark and Keith Shamburger bear some responsibility for getting Williams the ball and have to balance that with finding their own shots as the top backcourt options for the Tigers.
Senior Keanau Post has done some nice things, but his game is entirely dependent on teammates getting him the ball in a position to score.
Freshman Namon Wright, Tramaine Isabell, Jakeenan Gant and D’Angelo Allen also have shown flashes of offensive potential.
A healthy Montaque Gill-Caesar, a freshman guard who’s been limited for three weeks with back spasms, certainly would help take the pressure off, but it still has to start with Williams.