Three-point shooting proves costly in Missouri’s loss at Vanderbilt

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At first glance Missouri’s SEC schedule looked to be tailor-made for a 3-0 start, with a home game against Georgia followed by road tilts at Auburn and Vanderbilt. But after losing to an emotional group of Bulldogs in the league opener and at Vanderbilt on Thursday night, Frank Haith’s team finds itself sitting at 1-2 in SEC play. The difference in Vanderbilt’s 78-75 win on Thursday night was the three-point line, and that’s not referring solely to the number of shots the shorthanded Commodores made from distance either.

Down to a seven-man rotation thanks to injuries and suspensions, Kevin Stallings’ team isn’t blessed with a high number of scoring options. And given their lack of experience in the post, with both Damian Jones and Luke Kornet being freshmen, Vanderbilt has to do much of its scoring from the perimeter.

That’s exactly what happened against Missouri, with the Commodores shooting 12-for-32 from beyond the arc with 54.2% of their shot attempts being three-pointers. Seniors Rod Odom (24 points) and Kyle Fuller (22) combined for ten of the 12 makes, as Vanderbilt did a good job of working the ball around against the Missouri defense to create those looks. 12-for-32 may not look aesthetically pleasing, but it does when you outscore your opponent by 18 points from beyond the arc as Vanderbilt did on Thursday.

But that margin wasn’t the biggest problem for Missouri. The problem: they attempted 23 three-pointers (making six) on a night that saw them outscore Vanderbilt 36-16 in the paint. Remove Jabari Brown’s 4-for-7 night from deep and the other Tigers shot a combined 2-for-16 from three (Jordan Clarkson and Earnest Ross shot a combined 0-for-11), so why not continue to attack the basket when Vanderbilt lack both interior brawn and depth? Missouri settling for jump shots at times got them in trouble, digging a hole that proved too deep to climb out of in the end.

The Tigers may have entered the game third in the SEC in three-point percentage, making 36.2% of their attempts, but on this night the best course of action would have been to pass up some of those three-point shots for even more attempts in the paint. Also of note were the 12 layups Missouri missed. Make the majority of those and Missouri likely wins the game.

Vanderbilt deserves credit for this victory, and it’s a big one for the Commodores when considering their lack of numbers. But this was a game Missouri couldn’t afford to drop if they’re to be a credible player in the SEC race. To start SEC play 1-2 is a disappointment, and it makes their game against Alabama on Saturday even more important.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the NBCSports.com Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.