ROCHESTER, Mich. – Every team is allowed a few jitters in its first game, even No. 5 Missouri.
Jitters for the Tigers men’s basketball team came in a form that also was seen in the Tigers’ two exhibition games: turnovers.
Despite winning 90-85 in their regular season opener at Oakland University on Saturday night, the Tigers committed 20 turnovers.
“We were just a little nervous, but in the second half, we calmed down and took care of the ball a little bit better,” point guard Jimmy McKinney said. “In the first half, we were just nervous, first game, (Arthur Johnson) and Rickey (Paulding) in their hometown. We wanted to put on a good performance.”
As the game progressed, the frequency of the turnovers decreased. Fourteen of Missouri’s turnovers came in the first half.
“We got (the nerves) out,” McKinney said. “We’re going to learn from mistakes. We’re going to make sure that we don’t turn the ball over anymore.”
McKinney’s performance displayed the Tigers (1-0) indeed dealt with nerves. After committing a team-high five turnovers in the first half, McKinney had only one after that.
Oakland’s pressure defense also created Tigers’ turnovers, and the Golden Grizzles stole the ball 12 times. Although the Tigers said they attempted to simulate Oakland’s schemes in practice, they could not prepare for the intensity of Oakland’s pressure.
“It’s a little different with a team that runs it all the time and a team that is trying to scout against it,” senior forward Travon Bryant said. “We knew it was coming, but they did a good job of coming at us. We’ve got to give them credit. They played their tails off.”
The turnovers prevented the Tigers from establishing an offensive rhythm, especially in the first half. Center Arthur Johnson was double-teamed whenever he touched the ball. His response improved, and he committed all of his three turnovers in the first half.
Guard Rawle Marshall, who scored a game-high 27 points, led the Grizzles with seven steals.
Oakland (2-4) coach Greg Kampe said because his team struggled offensively against Michigan and Xavier, it did not have the opportunity to set up its pressure.
“Because we made shots, because they had to take the ball out of bounds, because of that, we had a chance to get in our stance and defend,” Kampe said. “I think we bothered them. I think we bother their point guard a great deal.”
In the two exhibition games, the Tigers averaged 21 turnovers.
Coach Quin Snyder, though, said the Tigers must improve in other areas.
“I was disappointed with the way we defended and rebounded,” Snyder said. “Those things need to become more important to us. We’re aware of our struggles handling the ball. That’s something we can get better at.”