Eighteen games played and it looks like Missouri is head coach Dennis Gates has now figured out exactly who he’s comfortable playing.
The Tigers moved to 14-4 (3-3) after their 79-76 victory over No. 25 Arkansas on Wednesday, where Gates played against 10 different players, nine of whom recorded 10 or more minutes, including guard Isiah Mosley, who has not played against UCF since December 17. He didn’t start, but played 19 minutes and scored eight points, all of which came in the first half, along with his two steals, one rebound, and one assist.
“What it says is that from day one we built this team around doing things and achieving goals through committees,” said Gates. “I thought because of the versatility and confidence of our guys, they were able to fill the gaps and stick to the game plan on both ends of the basketball and stay connected and play multiple positions. (In the second half) it was Kobe (brown) and De Andre (Gholston) and in the first half it was Isiaih, Aidan (Shaw) and Mo (Diarra).”
Forward Ronnie DeGray was the only player out of 10 to record no more than 10 minutes of action, he played four minutes even though he got the start instead of Noah Carterwhich was gone due to health and safety protocols in addition to walk on Mabor Mayak.
Diarra, who entered the game on Wednesday averaging less than a point per game on 25% shooting in 5.3 minutes per game over seven games, provided a brief spark early on with the team’s first three-pointer of the game which is remarkable because the Tigers shot 2 of 15 during the first 10 minutes of the game. Diarra finished the game with five points, two steals and a rebound in a season-high 10 minutes.
Gates said it was Brown who subtly told him during the week that Diarra was ready to play more minutes.
“He said ‘Coach, I think Mo is ready,’ he said that in those two practices,” Gates said. “Those are the things you listen to and they are players, but they also trust each other and are connected.
Leading up to the Texas A&M game, Mo was the best player on our team. That’s an addition to the first-team all-conference man (Brown) and an addition to the man who got his 1,000th point today. thought Mo was able to show his teammates who he really is when his back was against the wall.”
Shaw came off the bench and made an immediate impact, making both of his three-point attempts in the first half. Entering this game, he averaged 3.4 points per game and had made two of his 10 three-point attempts this season. Again, something Missouri desperately needed with how poorly it shot in the first half (11 of 30). He finished the game with seven points, a pair of rebounds and a steal in 10 minutes.
This was the first time Diarra, Shaw and Mosley had all played in the same game. So if Carter comes back, it means Shaw will have 11 players he seems comfortable playing.
The first 32 minutes of Wednesday’s game showed that Gates wasn’t afraid to go deep into his bench, but the final few minutes proved he could beat the select five of Sean East II, Nick Honor, D’Moi Hodge, Gholston and Brown to be his closers. This is a familiar site for Mizzou fans this season and it’s obvious why.
In the final five minutes and 17 seconds, trailing by eight, Missouri went on a 22-9 run to earn its third win over a top-25 team this season.
East was scoreless in 11 minutes of first half action before finishing the game with 12 points on 3 of 6 shots, while also cashing in all six of his free throw attempts in 25 minutes. Eight of his 12 points came on the stretch run.
Honor recorded one turnover in eight minutes of action in the first half before finishing with five points in 26 minutes. He didn’t have the flashiest stats, but he played a good defense and helped keep Arkansas’ leading scorer, Ricky Council IVto shoot 13 points on 4 of 11.
Hodge’s shooting troubles continue as he finished the game with seven points on 1 of 7 shots, but he made 5 of 6 free throws and registered a block and a big charge in the second half.
So despite shooting 6 of 26 (23%) and 3 of 20 from outside the arc (15%) in his last three games (including this one), he was able to play at the defensive end, something Gates was proud of. look how good a defender Hodge can be.
“I think in the past he allowed his offense to dictate his defence, but he’s a guy who I’ve always said could be a potential Defensive Player of the Year with his ability to get deflections but also on to be in the right place,” said Gates. said. “That’s a guy I think will help us and right now he’s not happy with 0-of-5 (on 3-pointers), but he was able to knock down some free throws and finish with 7 points.”
Brown and Gholston led the charge, and Brown finished with 17 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals in 37 minutes, despite being injured in the last minute.
“Kobe cramped and sprained his ankle and still wanted to play,” said Gates. “When you have that kind of liberation from your players, it means they don’t want to drop the people to their left and right.”
What kicked off the Tigers’ 22-9 run was scoring the first 10 unanswered points, which Gholston attributed to the team keeping its head down and controlling what it could control in what was a very physical game in which the teams combined made 56 errors.
“It’s things we discussed internally every day, different scenarios and ways to respond,” Gholston said. “I think the way you react to things like umpires, runs, missed shots, poor defensive possession is the most important thing in college basketball right now. The way we react allows us to keep fighting and it has us tonight assisted.”
Gholston finished the game with 16 points, three assists, two steals and a pair of rebounds in 29 minutes.
“I thought I heard a lot of great voices and great conversations between our players,” said Gates. “They said, ‘Don’t panic, don’t blink, this is a five minute game.’ At that point, they didn’t slam on the brakes or think twice. They were able to go on a 22-9 run, which I think ultimately led them with our defensive stops.”
When conference tournament time comes around in early March, most coaches shorten their rotations. So it’s unlikely that Gates will use 11 players then, but for now he’s got them at his disposal to play double-digit minutes if needed and he’s got a pretty good last five to complete games too.
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