By now, you’ve surely seen multiple Jordan Barnett highlight-reel dunks.
If you haven’t, look no further than his second-half baseline two-handed slam on West Virginia’s Sagaba Konate, in Sunday’s AdvoCare Invitational championship game.
The dunk, which was assisted by Kassius Robertson, was Barnett’s 21st point of the game, which is what he finished with in the Tigers’ 83-79 loss.
His 21-point performance was just two points off his career-high output and an example of exactly how much of a threat Barnett can be on the offensive end.
So much so that junior Kevin Puryear called him the team’s X-factor.
“We need him playing at a high level, all the time,” said Puryear, the Blue Springs South High School graduate who is the team’s second-leading scorer with 12.7 points per game. “When he is knocking down shots and being aggressive, that plays into our favor and gives us a better chance to win the game.”
Barnett was 8 of 18 from the field Sunday night, knocked in 3 of his 9 3-point attempts and was 2 of 2 from the free-throw line.
Barnett has the ability to score on multiple levels, whether as a spot-up shooter, attacking the rim or collapsing on offensive rebounds, of which he had four against West Virginia. That allows Missouri’s offense to expand.
Heading into the semifinal of the AdvoCare Invitational, his shots weren’t falling, though.
He was a combined 5 of 21 from the field and 0 of 12 from 3-point range through three games – Utah, Emporia State and Long Beach State – but that changed Friday.
“I was happy to see him get out of that funk,” Puryear said.
Barnett poured in 19 points against St. John’s. He was 4 of 7 from the field, 2 of 4 from 3-point range and 9 of 10 from the free-throw line.
Barnett, the team’s third-leading scorer at 11.7 points per game this season and the team’s leading scorer last season, said nothing really changed.
“I’m not scared to take any shot. It’s just a matter of them falling, and they fell against St. John’s and against West Virginia,” Barnett said.
He shot 11 of 25 from the field and 5 of 13 from 3-point range over the final two games of the tournament, scoring 40 points and adding 20 rebounds.
He’s glad to be out of his slump.
“It’s nice to break out of the shooting slump that I personally had, but I need it to continue because we are going to have a long stretch of games where we need to perform and get wins,” Barnett said.
Coach Cuonzo Martin stresses three things in nearly every press conference.
“Defend, rebound and play hard,” Martin says.
He expects Barnett to score, because he believes Barnett has the ability to be a difference-maker offensively. He’s shown it on multiple occasions, so when Martin mentioned what he was most impressed with from Barnett, he didn’t reference his scoring. He talked about the 11 rebounds he earned against West Virginia that got him his first double-double of the season.
“That was impressive to me,” Martin said. “That means you exerted yourself to go get that. They didn’t fall in his hands. He went and got those rebounds.”
LEARNING TO WIN: Robertson, who finished with 13 points against West Virginia, took Sunday’s loss hard.
As a senior, and the team’s leading scorer with 13.6 points per game, he felt like he could’ve done more to help the team win.
“I thought I should’ve done more as a senior and experience-wise in terms of those late-game situations, because you can’t prepare for that at all,” Robertson said. “West Virginia is a tough, tough team, but I think it was more about us than who we were playing.”
While there were surely things to be encouraged about, such as holding a 16-point lead against the No. 19 team in the country, neither Puryear, Barnett nor Robertson felt good about the result.
“We weren’t excited that we built a lead. We went in there expecting to beat that team, and we should’ve beat that team,” Robertson said. “We were the better team. We just didn’t take care of the ball.”
Robertson said the team is learning how to win in those situations. He, Barnett and Puryear are taking on the responsibility to help the team in that aspect.
“You aren’t supposed to lose a 16-point lead in eight minutes, in any circumstance,” Barnett said. “It’s a learning process. We are still learning how to win these games, and the seniors on this team have to help lead that process and the juniors right behind us.”
ORLANDO TAKEAWAYS: Through seven games, a lot remains unknown about Missouri, but after the tournament in Orlando, Puryear said he learned a few things.
“I would say we have a very talented group and a resilient group, as well,” Puryear said.
The Tigers, who finished 2-1 in the Advocare Invitational, held double-digit leads in every game. They also blew double-digit leads twice, against St. John’s and West Virginia. Against St. John’s, they were able to fight back for the win.
More than the wins, though, Puryear liked the fight the team showed after a difficult week before the tournament.
“We didn’t get the outcome we wanted, but just the unity and how hard we played as a team, that was something great to take away. It shows we are a very head-strong group,” Puryear said.
MOVING ON FROM MPJ: Puryear wants teams to be worried each time they play the Tigers.
He believes the program is moving in the right direction to reach that goal, even if Michael Porter Jr. doesn’t step on the floor this year.
“We are setting a new bar for what Missouri basketball is all about,” he said.
Hours before the men’s team took the floor for its championship game Sunday, Porter posted on his Instagram story a picture of a living room and a message, “Just letting y’all know, whoever said it was gonna take 3-4 months to recover lied.”
Porter was referencing timetable for recovery after the back surgery he had Nov. 21. The timetable was announced by Missouri, which said the freshman is likely to miss the season.
While the timeline of Porter’s rehab might be up in the air, the players are focused on winning.
“I think that it’s a discredit to our guys to say that we were playing with fear that Mike wasn’t going to be here at any point on the season,” Robertson said. “We ride with who is on the court and don’t worry about anything else.”
Puryear echoed Robertson’s thoughts and said that the team is out to prove that it is one of the best in the country.
“We love Mike and want nothing more for him than to play with us. It’s kind of a discredit to everybody else, because we have a talented group of guys and we know we are capable of being one of the best teams in the country,” Puryear said. “We are going to do everything it takes to prove that.”
Missouri will get a chance to continue to prove that Thursday when it travels back to Orlando to face Central Florida.