A lack of hussle is not something you expect to see from J.T. Tiller.
Usually, Tiller is one of the most active Tigers on the floor. When he gets into the game, Tiller causes action. Sometimes it helps Missouri, sometimes it hurts. Regardless of the results, coach Mike Anderson has called him one of the Tigers’ “energy” guys, one of his bench players that can spark the team.
So that may have been why Anderson seemed so surprised to see Tiller give up on a play the way he did in Thursday’s practice. He and guard Marcus Watkins let Keon Lawrence get behind them for what appeared to be an easy layup. Lawrence, however, missed the layup but was able to tip the ball in. While Watkins contested the tip, Tiller didn’t, having started to run to the other end of the floor assuming the layup was going to be good.
When Anderson saw this, he stopped practice, and quickly walked across the court, yelling to Tiller “What ... are you doing? You’re supposed to be an energy guy!” Smith then pulled Tiller out of the practice, replacing him with Nick Berardini.
After practice, Tiller seemed visibly embarassed about the incident, jokingly rolling his eyes when he talked about it.
“He was mad, real mad,” Tiller said with a laugh. “I’m supposed to be that blue-collar guy and that’s an important role on the team.”
With Missouri in the middle of a 17-day period with six games, the Tigers will need energy from all of their players. At the same time, their schedule could cause some fatigue. But fatigue, Tiller said, “is mental” and can be overcome.
Something he may not be able to control as well is the “freshman wall.” Hitting the wall is something that happens not because of a lack of conditioning, but simply a lack of experience. Never before have Tiller and fellow freshman Keon Lawrence played college basketball, nor have they played games in Mike Anderson’s fast-paced system.
“Ah, the infamous wall,” Tiller said. “When you hit it, it depends on how you bounce back. You just don’t let it wear you down.”
For the rest of practice, Tiller appeared to have listened to what Anderson said. When he returned to the scrimmage a few minutes later, Tiller didn’t look like a player who was affected by fatigue. Tiller said his teammates won’t let him, or any other Tiger, worry about fatigue.
“We all get tired,” Tiller said, “but we all encourage each other.”
Lawrence, however, claims fatigue doesn’t affect him.
“I ain’t hit a wall,” Lawrence said. “I did when I got hurt, but there ain’t no wall in front of me. I’m always having fun playing.”
SCARY MOMENT: For a little while in practice, it looked like Vaidotas Volkus had suffered a serious injury.
He and Darryl Butterfield were chasing after a loose ball with Butterfield slightly behind. To catch up, Butterfield dove on the floor to try to get to the ball before Volkus could pick it up. But when Butterfield dove, he accidentally rolled over the back of Volkus’s right ankle, causing Volkus to fall back and scream in agony.
After going to the locker room with trainer Pat Beckmann, Volkus returned to the floor a few minutes later. He came back to the floor in time to play in a seven-minute segment and even was able to score on a layup, earning praise from assistant coach Matt Zimmerman, who yelled “Nice job V! Good hussle!”
SMILE, JASON: After losing a tooth during Missouri’s Tuesday night win over Mississippi State, Jason Horton was forced to wear a yellow mouthguard for the rest of the game. On Thursday, he was still wearing it while he practiced. And still getting used to it, flexing it in and out of his mouth while he played.
“I don’t like (wearing) it,” Horton said. “It makes it hard to breathe.”