Grab those bootstraps. Pull 'em up. Get back to work.
That's about all we could do after the debacle that happened downriver on Wednesday evening. After the FBCats suffered a disappointing loss in the Cotton Bowl to put an end to a wildly successful season, attention quickly turned back to the BBCats on Saturday.
On slate was a Missouri Tigers squad, coming into the Octagon of Doom with an undefeated 14-0 record as the second-leading scoring team in the country, just shy of 84 points per game, and shooting as a team over 50%FG and 77%FT on the season. Furthermore, the Tigers just got done putting a butt-whoopin on Oklahoma, winning by 38. With this game and Baylor coming into the OoD on Tuesday, we needed to have our heads screwed on straight, or an 0-3 (even 0-4, with a following road trip to Norman) start to the Big 12 conference schedule was a legitimate possibility.
Well, Misery is undefeated no more, and was fed a hefty dose of HEY! WE'RE BIGGER THAN YOU ARE! from the Cats all afternoon. What's also impressive was the game attendance. With 40,000 strong in Dallas for the Cotton Bowl, the OoD was still nearly full to capacity, and was very loud even on the telecast. I'm really starting to dig this whole OoD home-court advantage we gots going here. K-State has now won 14 in a row in Bramlage Coliseum, I believe tying the all-time Bramlage mark. [fact checker - need some help here]
This may have been the most complete game that the Cats have put together this year. Missouri has no one taller than 6-9 on the roster, and only two taller than 6-6. Right from the tip, it was our focus to put the ball in the paint. Drive, pass to the block, didn't matter. Get the ball to the bucket. The nonstop offensive attack led Missouri into foul trouble, with Phil Pressey and Steve Moore both fouling out, and Ricardo Ratliffe picking up 4. No one on the Tigers defense could handle anything K-State did in the lane. The gritty, scrappy defense came back as well, holding the Tigers to under 30%FG for the game, and forcing 14 turnovers from one of the best ballhandling teams in the nation.
On the Tigers side, Marcus Denmon is a legit basketball player. He did score 17 points, but took 14 shots to do it, including a 3-9 clip from 3; also registered 6 REB, 3 AST, and 2 STL. Michael Dixon, a strong, quick penetrating guard, also registered 16, but needed 11 shots, and scored 7 of his points from the line. However, looking at the game from a greater perspective, Missouri quite simply couldn't even compete. This game was steadily in K-State's favor 2 minutes in, and halfway through the first half, it was all but over, barring a complete collapse. The Cats led by as many as 21.
HCFM decided (for some reason unbeknownst to us that consider ourselves to be sane and rational) to experiment in the middle of the second half, putting Gipson, Jones, Angel, Nino and Shane all out on the floor at the same time. What happened was the only stretch of bad basketball that was played by K-State, resulting in Missouri cutting the lead to 13. He put an end to that trial period, put the starters back out on the floor, and the cushion quickly grew back to 21 again before some garbage buckets under two minutes to go cut the lead down to the 16-point final spread.
Good things to take away:
- Winning. Coming back home, playing well and getting a win after that atrocity in Lawrence was crucial to the psyche of this team, I believe. If we wen't 0-2 out of the gates, I could see us starting 0-4. Now I see 3-1 as a likelihood at this point.
- Taking advantage of our strengths. Inside, there was no way Missouri could keep up with us, so we pounded and pounded and pounded them into submission. Not just by brute force, but by creative ball movement and finding great stretch-and-seal plays for easy layups, and with our big guys finishing the ball around the rim. No one on the Tiger D could handle Rod. McGruder could do just about anything he wanted to, and something positive would happen. Shane created some major matchup problems on the perimeter; his length and height compared to the smaller Missouri guards created the ability for some fantastic passes. And our bench was key. Being able to constantly rotate players in and out actually out-Missouri'ed the Tigers, as they were the ones exhausted by the end of the game.
- Swagger and Confidence. I'm really happy to see our guys play with the swagger and confidence they had prior to the KU game. After a decimating loss like that, we needed to see the resilience and fortitude, and we got it in spades.
Things to Improve On:
- Offensive Execution. As good as we did play, there were times we did become a little stagnant, specifically when Missouri dropped into the 2-3 zone. Some standing around, a little too much ball-bouncing and not enough ball-moving.
- Player Control. We picked up a couple of charges tonight - I know Jamar and Rod both got whistled for one at the least. While I like being aggressive, neither were really in context of trying to score the ball. All they ended up being were dumb fouls that cause foul trouble. Rod picked up 3 fouls, and JamSam fouled out late in the game.
- Tuesday's a different game. We walked on these guys because we were honestly a better team. Baylor won't be the same - they're much bigger and much more athletic than Missouri. Even at 15-0, I'd say they're underachieving for their talent (indictment of Scott Drew, here). We've got to go back to work tomorrow, and work hard, and be ready to be firing on all cylinders.
Individual Performance Analysis:
- Rodney McGruder: A. Played only 25 minutes (foul trouble early second half), but still rang up 20 PTS on 9-17 shooting on an array of floaters, jumpers, and dunks. Plural. As in more than one. Quite simply, scoring-wise, Rod was dominating. He did manage to come up with 4 REB and 1 AST, but also coughed the ball up on 4 TOs, so couldn't give him the A+ some were clamoring for today. I would argue his performance against LBSU in the Diamond Head was more impressive. But hell, the kid had a day today, too. I'll give him a little benefit of the doubt, since his third foul that took him out of the game for a while was a crap call.
- Martavious Irving: A. 25 minutes as well, finishing with 7 PTS, 4 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, only 1 TO. Played stellar defense all night on Phil Pressey - one of the nation's leaders in AST/TO ratio. Drew a couple charges, and shoulda had at least one more. Hit a 3 when disrespected by the Tigers D, and hit a layup off of a strong move with contact at the rim. Dude was a ROCK.
- Will Spradling: A-. Team-high 31 minutes with 14 PTS (including 3-6 from 3PFG), 3 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, and didn't turn it over once. Defense is getting better, but got baked on one back-door play that I KNOW was worked on for about a gazillion hours since Wednesday night's loss. Overall, very solid ball.
- Jamar Samuels: B+. This could be a nominee for the "most influential without the numbers to show for it" effort we've seen this year. Only 7 PTS, 2 REB in 24 minutes, but also came up with 3 BLK, and I just felt like there was an energy, a purpose when he was on the floor. There was something very intangible about his game tonight, hence the high grade without the stats.
- Jordan Henriquez: B+. This, on the other hand, could be a nominee for the "A-triple-plus if he could cut out the plays where he looks like a drunk giraffe" award. JO got the call-up today after Big GIP's recent struggles, and put on the most dominant performance I've ever seen out of a guy that can't put the ball in the goal. 26 minutes and 10 PTS, 8 REB, but the looks that he had and the fact he towered over everyone else on the floor? Shoulda (and probably coulda) been more like 20-14. Played as a human eraser on the frontline, swatting 4 shots away. Even made 2-3 FTs, which is a huge improvement for him, as is the 1 TO. Always an interesting watch - he makes some great post moves, but will follow them up with a move where he looks like he just got fitted for new legs yesterday. Ahhhhhhh...fun.
- Thomas Gipson: B+. The Big GIP got to ride the pine to start the day, but didn't bother him none. He's a worker. Got his hard hat on. An absolute beast for anyone on Missouri to handle, he only played 12 minutes, but still came up with 9 PTS and 5 REB. Made some moves that shows he's making progress in that department. Played some great D against guys that were smaller and quicker than him. Had to be happy with his effort today.
- Shane Southwell: A. Paradox was a stat-filler in all the good ways today. 25 minutes with 4 PTS, 5 REB, 6 AST, and not a single damn TO. Atta boy, Shane. Only reason this wasn't an A+ effort was due to the fact he kinda disappeared in the second half, doing most of his damage in the first, and he NEEDS more than 4 shots in a game. I've gotta get more points out of him before I can say he had an A+ game. That being said, this guy was playing the game like a maestro today, putting passes right on the money where most people woudn't have even seen the pass. These weren't just assists, they made the game easier for his teammates. Steve Nash type passes. Also killed it with the D, arguably defending on-ball as well as Tay all afternoon.
- Angel Rodriguez: C+. Played really good D, and attacked the basket a couple times, drawing fouls. Scored 3 PTS (all on FTs), and went 0-3 FG. Both 3's he took were complete derp shots, completely forced and not in context with anything. Still, came up with 2 REB and 4 AST to 1 TO in 19 minutes of play. Grade was lowered from a high B due to his decision making with those 3's.
- Victor Ojeleye: D. Really came in just to spell other guys. Logged only 4 minutes, but still somehow managed to ring up 2 TOs. Bud, we need more positive, less negative when you're on the floor.
- Nino Williams: C. Same story as Vic - 4 minutes for other's rest. Shows hustle around the glass (2 REB), but for Pete's sake, man...STOP SHOOTING THREES!
- Adrian Diaz: INC. Only played 2 garbage minutes at the end of the game, and still managed to come up with 1 PT (1-2 FT), 1 REB, 1 TO, and 1 foul. I guess that's taking advantage of the time you got. Hard to get a gauge on any semblance of "how he played".
- Jeremy Jones: INC. Only coming in for 3 minutes, didn't log a stat. Looked like he played decent D while he was in there, and didn't really make any mistakes on offense (aside from that drive-the-baseline-then-jump-and-pass-out-from-under-bucket thing he does...I HATE that), so he must be livin' with Rover for something he did in practice, after the positives we saw from him in Hawai'i.
No one else saw the floor.