Brian Goodman is an RTC corresopondent. He filed this report from Saturday’s game between Missouri and Hawaii in Kansas City, Missouri.
One of the biggest questions for Missouri entering this season was how the Tigers would replace the post production of Alex Oriakhi and Laurence Bowers after the big men left Columbia. While three games is still too early to draw any definitive conclusions, Frank Haith’s team made some nice progress against Hawaii Saturday night at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. Here are three thoughts from the game, won by Missouri, 92-80.
- Supporting Cast Steps Up While Jordan Clarkson Sits: Just three minutes into the game, the Tigers’ star transfer went to the bench after getting called for his second foul, a technical for taunting the Rainbow Warriors after hitting a layup (we won’t give much digital ink to the fact that the Tigers still trailed at the time, but it’s worth mentioning). While Clarkson sat out for the rest of the half, his teammates came up in a big way on offense. Jabari Brown led the way with 23 points, showing a very nice all-around game, which Earnest Ross complemented brilliantly in the second half. Ryan Rosburg and Johnathan Williams III also helped Missouri execute its offense efficiently. The Tigers’ forwards exploited the seemingly endless number of opportunities given to them inside, both on the bounce and by backing their men down in the post.
- Tony Criswell’s Return Bolsters Missouri Frontcourt: Missouri received a huge boost from Tony Criswell, who contributed 11 points and nine rebounds in his season debut after being suspended for the team’s first two games. Criswell entered the game to a huge ovation early in the first half and never let up. Criswell scored at will in the post, drawing extra help to provide Missouri’s primary weapons with more space with which to operate. We know that Clarkson, Brown and Ross give Missouri one of the most potent backcourts in the SEC, but if its rotation up front continues to pitch in the way it did on Saturday, it will give the Tigers a major boost towards contending for an NCAA Tournament bid, and Criswell will be a huge part of that.
- Tigers Bend But Don’t Break On Defense: Despite holding the Rainbow Warriors to a paltry 42 percent shooting clip in the first stanza, Missouri trailed at halftime largely due to 12 fouls that were called on the Tigers, many of which sent Hawaii to the charity stripe. Hawaii sank 16-of-18 free throws in the first half to keep Gib Arnold’s team in the game. The second half was a different story, as Missouri defended much more effectively, although the Rainbow Warriors mounted a few comebacks. With bigger non-conference games looming, more complete games defensively will become increasingly important for the Tigers.