Missouri coach Mike Anderson often calls his Tigers “the ultimate team.” When he says that, he isn’t calling the Tigers the best team in college basketball. Instead, he means that his team has many different players that can contribute, that not one player is more important to Missouri’s success than any other.
But when Stefhon Hannah left because of foul trouble in the first half of Saturday’s 66-65 loss to Iowa State, Anderson’s “ultimate team” was tested. And the results weren’t always positive.
When Hannah picked up his second foul with 13:16 left, Missouri led 12-9. Rather than immediately take Hannah out, Anderson chose to let him stay on the floor. While Hannah managed to avoid picking up his third foul, one that could have kept him out of the game for much of the second half, he did not change his style of play. Twice in the next minute-and-a-half, Hannah reached out for the basketball but was not called for a foul.
At the 12 minute time-out, Hannah was replaced and did not return until after halftime. Missouri, which led 15-11 at that point, scored only 10 points the rest of the half.
Without Hannah, one of the players Missouri hoped would handle the ball was freshman Keon Lawrence. But just three minutes after Hannah was taken out, Lawrence picked up his second foul. With both Hannah and Lawrence on the bench, the Tigers struggled, scoring only seven points in the last 8:24 of the half.
“You got to have guys that can create, and make shots,” Anderson said. “We just didn’t shoot well. That’s the bottom line. We had some looks, they just didn’t fall. Of course, Stefhon triggers a lot of what we do.”
Two possessions late in the first half showed how Missouri struggled offensively without two of its leading scorers. With 1:19 left in the half, Kalen Grimes was forced to shoot an off-balance 3-pointer to try to beat the shot clock. Grimes, who hadn’t attempted a 3-pointer before Saturday, sent his shot off the top of the backboard and out of bounds. To end the half, J.T. Tiller missed a 25-foot jumper off the backboard after letting the clock run down.
Both sequences came with Tiller, Grimes, Darryl Butterfield, Marcus Watkins and Matt Lawrence on the floor.
A LITTLE HELP?: For the first time this season. Missouri was unable to get more than 10 assists. Before Saturday’s seven assists, Missouri’s season-low was 11 against Purdue on Dec. 9. Through its first 13 games, Missouri was averaging 17.4 assists, which was fifth in the Big 12.
“A tell sign of our basketball team is we share the basketball. We had seven assists (Saturday). Seven,” Anderson said, emphasizing the second seven. “That’s probably an all-time low for any of my teams, seven assists. We’ve got to continue to improve.”
Hannah led the Tigers with three assists.
ON THE REBOUND: When Iowa State’s Wesley Johnson made the winning basket with 1.6 seconds left, it came when he tipped in a missed 3-pointer by guard Mike Taylor. Johnson’s decisive offensive rebound was the 14th Missouri allowed. The Tigers were also outrebounded 43-33 and allowed Johnson (13) and Cyclones center Jiri Hubalek (11) to get double-digit rebound totals. Anderson didn’t blame the Tigers’ rebounding problems on Iowa State’s size advantage.
“It was just a matter of going and getting it,” Anderson said. “I think the learning curve for this basketball team is just to understand the intensity, the magnitude of the game. That was the biggest difference. At halftime, we were behind, but in the second half you could really see the difference because neither team was shooting the ball great.”
The Tigers were outrebounded by five in both halves.