Blogger Spotlight: Talking Mizzou hoops with Rock M Nation

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To say Missouri’s had an interesting offseason would be an understatement.

The Tigers – who closed the season by losing five of their last six games – lost coach Mike Anderson to Arkansas, reportedly had Matt Painter convinced to leave Purdue for Columbia, only to watch him stay in West Lafayette (and find out he was supposedly never serious about bolting the Boilermakers) had multiple players declare for the NBA draft, the finally hired Miami’s Frank Haith as their new coach.

And since then, life’s gotten even more interesting for the Tigers, who’ve locked up good prospects, a key coaching assistant and welcome nearly every important  player from last year’s team.

So, I turned to Bill Connelly from Rock M Nation for the latest Blogger Spotlight to help me cover Haith’s first few weeks on the job, Mizzou’s season, its style and its prospects for next season.

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Q: Hiring Frank Haith didn’t wow people – I was in that camp – but he’s already secured solid recruits and made an excellent assistant hire in Tim Fuller. And given his response to the tornado disaster in Joplin, do you think people are looking at Haith differently now?

A: Haith has been nothing but impressive since he was hired. Between the recruiting and his commitment to winning over the state of Missouri, he has pushed all the right buttons. Obviously that won’t matter if he can’t win, but with the roster he has in place for next year, he could build solid momentum with a nice 2012 recruiting class and a nice 2011-12 season.

The biggest thing Haith has going for him, and the reason I’ve been mostly on board from Day One, is simple: it’s been a really long time since athletic director Mike Alden has made a poor hire.  Like, 1999.  Quin Snyder was the last iffy hire he made, and even that one looked like it was going to work out well for about four years.  Alden trusts that Haith didn’t have the support to live up to his potential at Miami, and he trusts that Mizzou will provide him with that support.  Until he actually makes another bad hire (which everybody does at some point), I have no reason to doubt him.

Q: That said, the season hasn’t started. Haith’s Miami teams were never a conference contender and made just one NCAA tournament in seven years. What will the expectations be in 2011-12 given how much experience is on the roster?

A: I think the expectations are, at the very least, another trip to the NCAA Tournament. But with this much senior talent, one would have to figure it would be disappointing if they didn’t at least make the Round of 32.

Q: Early word on what the players think of him?

A: Early word is that the players love him, honestly.  There were extreme concerns that Phil Pressey would be out the door quickly, especially considering his ties to Mike Anderson.  Instead, he is committed to staying, and nobody else left either.  That has to be a good sign.

Q: That does sound promising for keeping a solid player base. Are there indications if Haith will use portions of Anderson’s pressing, up-tempo styles?

A: Haith has announced that he will keep a lot of the up-tempo nature because that’s what this group is built to do. So basically, I see Mizzou attempting to push the tempo after defensive rebounds and turnovers, but I don’t see them pressing very much.  Which is good, really, because Mizzou wasn’t as good at pressing this past season.  Mike Dixon and Phil Pressey are built to run and play offense, but they weren’t built to press.

Q: The 2010-11 season ended abruptly and couldn’t have been pleasant to watch given the highs Missouri hit. What was the ultimate factor in the late losses and general road woes? How do they get fixed?

A: Some teams just peak at the wrong time. It seemed like Mizzou just ran out of energy down the stretch. Obviously Mizzou fans were able to twist that into “The players knew Anderson was leaving!!” or “Anderson stopped coaching!!” but I don’t necessarily believe that. They just lost the edge that you have to have to run Anderson’s system, and it wasn’t fun to watch.

As for the road woes … the Anderson style is not built for road success simply because it is so dependent on how officials are calling the games, and whether they think they do or not, officials favor the home team. So I think Mizzou had this natural tendency to be better than average at home, where they got calls, and worse than average on the road, where they didn’t.  Beyond that, though … again, it comes down to edge and confidence.  Previous Mizzou teams had it away from home, at least more than in 2010-11, and this one didn’t.  Marcus Denmon showed up on the road, either Mike Dixon or Phil Pressey would from time to time, and Ricardo Ratliffe did for a while.  But Laurence Bowers was mostly nonexistent, and Kim English was an absolute detriment.  Hopefully that changes in 2011-12, obviously.

Q: I’m a Kansas grad, so this question comes with the rivalry in mind: Do you miss the days of Norm Stewart poking a stick at Kansas and its fans? I always thought Mike Anderson could’ve used a little more of that. Not just straight up ripping, but having some fun with the rivalry, you know?

A: I’m not as obsessed with the MU-KU rivalry as some — my freshman year at Mizzou, an acquaintance in the dorm told me, in all seriousness, that Mizzou could go 1-27, and if they beat Kansas at home, it was a successful year.  Even then, that baffled me. 

That said … it’s still the biggest series of the year, and Norm really did make the rivalry fun.  He was a unique case — he grew up with the rivalry and in the rivalry; that gave him a unique feel for things, one that Haith probably doesn’t have.  But he’s going to try his best, and if he knocks off the Jayhawks at Mizzou Arena (or, god forbid, Allen Fieldhouse for the first time in 13 years), then Mizzou fans will do the poking-with-sticks for him.

Q: I’m always amazed at the people who want the 1 win over the rival as well. Don’t you want more than just that? Like next year. Missouri should be in good shape to possibly win the Big 12 and make a decent NCAA tourney run. Who needs to be player needs to step up for that to happen?

A: In the late signing period, Haith and company evidently did not find anybody worth spending a scholarship on once Otto Porter announced he was going to Georgetown, which was mostly fine.  Mizzou has quite a bit of depth already, and the biggest immediate recruiting job, really, was to make sure Phil Pressey stayed. 

What this did, however, was leave Mizzou with the bigs they have.  I think that the biggest pressure will be on the main bigs — Ricardo Ratliffe and Laurence Bowers — to prove that, in less of a run-and-gun environment, they can bang and rebound a bit better.  The Mike Anderson style is always going to result in iffy rebounding numbers to some degree (even in 2008-09, they were average at best in this department), but what happened in 2010-11 was that Mizzou forced fewer turnovers and created fewer easy baskets … and while they didn’t get any worse on the glass than they were the year before, it became more of an issue with the extra possessions opponents were receiving.  We know Mizzou will have a dynamic backcourt, but the frontcourt is still a bit of a question mark.

Q: Favorite Mizzou team of the last 15 years?

A: Honestly, I’ve got to go with 2008-09. t’s probably obvious (it was one of only two Mizzou teams in that span to advance beyond the Round of 32), but the reasons behind it go beyond simply “They were really good.”  After a really, really depressing half-decade of Mizzou basketball, where Mizzou not only didn’t win, but they suffered some embarrassing moments off the court, fan morale was at an all-time low. With both on-court style and personality, that team won everybody back, and then some.  It was the subject of perhaps my favorite post I’ve ever written at Rock M Nation.

Q: How’d you get into blogging? And how much longer do you intend keeping it up?

A: For years, I was writing lengthy posts on various message boards until I realized I hated message boards for the most part, so some friends and I started a little Google Group just to talk amongst ourselves. Then, after about a year of that, the lightbulb went off: I’m reading hundreds of blogs a day … why the hell haven’t I started a Mizzou one yet?  Mizzou Sanity went up the next day, and about eight months later, I was writing for SB Nation with a fellow Mizzou blogger from a different site.

How long do I intend to keep it up?  Until blogs don’t exist anymore, I’m assuming.  If I ever stopped, I’d still be having all the same thoughts running around in my head, and I’d have to get them out somehow, so…why stop?

You can find more of Bill’s writing here and follow him on Twitter @rockmnation.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

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Junfu Han/USA TODAY NETWORK
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.

Miller scores 23, No. 10 Maryland tops No. 13 Michigan 72-64

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Diamond Miller scored 23 points, and No. 10 Maryland closed the first quarter with a 13-2 run and led the rest of the way in a 72-64 victory over No. 13 Michigan on Thursday night.

Abby Meyers contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (17-4, 8-2), who won for the 10th time in 11 games. Lavender Briggs scored 14 points and Shyanne Sellers added 13.

Maryland gained a measure of revenge after losing twice to Michigan last season – including a 20-point rout in College Park.

Leigha Brown led the Wolverines with 16 points.

Michigan (16-5, 6-4) led 13-9 in the first quarter before a three-point play by Miller started Maryland’s big run. Briggs and Faith Masonius made 3-pointers during that stretch.

The Terps pushed the lead to 16 in the third quarter before the Wolverines were able to chip away. Miller sat for a bit with four fouls, and Michigan cut the lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines still wasted too many possessions with turnovers to mount much of a comeback.

Michigan ended up with 24 turnovers, and Maryland had a 25-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

Miller fouled out with 2:19 remaining, but even after those two free throws, the Terps led 65-57 and had little trouble holding on.

Michigan lost for the second time in four days against a top-10 opponent. No. 6 Indiana beat the Wolverines 92-83 on Monday.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: Whether it was against Maryland’s press or in their half-court offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over too much to score consistently. This was a lower-scoring game than the loss to Indiana, but the margin ended up being similar.

Maryland: While Miller clearly led the way, the Terps had plenty of offensive contributors. They also held Michigan to 13 points below its season average entering the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Wolverines have appeared in 48 straight AP polls, and although a two-loss week could certainly drop them, the quality of their opponents could save them from a substantial plunge.

Maryland is tied for 10th with an Iowa team that beat No. 2 Ohio State on Monday night. Now the Terps can boast an impressive victory of their own.

UP NEXT

Michigan: The Wolverines play their third game of the week when they visit Minnesota on Sunday.

Maryland: The Terps host Penn State on Monday night.

 

Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.

No. 12 Iowa State holds on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
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AMES, Iowa – Jaren Holmes matched his season high with 23 points as No. 12 Iowa State held on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76 on Tuesday night.

The Cyclones (15-4, 6-2 Big 12) moved into a three-way tie atop the conference standings with the Wildcats and Texas.

Gabe Kalscheur added 19 points for Iowa State. Osun Osunniyi finished with 16.

Markquis Nowell led Kansas State (17-3, 6-2) with 23 points.

A 3-pointer from Holmes gave Iowa State a 59-49 advantage with 8:12 remaining. Kansas State responded with a 10-1 run to trim the margin to 60-59.

Caleb Grill’s 3-pointer steadied the Cyclones and pushed the lead back to 63-59 with five minutes left.

Free throws by Osunniyi, Grill and Holmes sealed the victory in the final 24 seconds.

The first half featured eight lead changes and ended with Kansas State up 33-31.

A 3-pointer by Kalscheur ignited an early 9-0 run for the Cyclones and helped them build a 19-14 lead. Iowa State made just one of nine 3-point tries in the first 20 minutes.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State was trying to extend its best start to a season since 1961-62.

Iowa State improved to 11-0 at home. The Cyclones have not lost back-to-back games this season.

UP NEXT

Kansas State hosts Florida on Saturday as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

Iowa State travels to Missouri on Saturday.

Georgetown snaps 29-game conference losing streak

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON – Primo Spears scored 21 points and Georgetown snapped a 29-game conference losing streak with an 81-76 victory over DePaul on Tuesday night.

Georgetown (6-15, 1-9) won its first Big East game since March 13, 2021, ending the longest skid in the history of the conference. The Hoyas also ended a 10-game losing streak this season.

Spears also contributed six assists for the Hoyas. Akok Akok scored 12 points and added six rebounds and four blocks and Brandon Murray recorded 12 points.

Umoja Gibson led the Blue Demons (9-12, 3-7) in scoring, finishing with 24 points, four assists and three steals. Javan Johnson added 13 points.

Spears scored nine points in the first half and Georgetown went into the break trailing 37-36. Georgetown used a 10-0 run in the second half to build a 12-point lead at 75-63 with 1:39 remaining.