Missouri women's basketball is no longer undefeated.
The Tigers started 6-0 for the second straight year. And again, for the consecutive year, a top-15 team ended that pristine record. No. 11 Virginia Tech held off the Tigers 73-57. Last year, it was No. 7 Baylor.
But, also like last season's start, Robin Pingeton's squad has shown flashes of being a team that can compete with some of the top teams in the nation.
Here are three takeaways from Missouri's 6-1 start after MU's biggest test of the non-conference slate against Wake Forest and Virginia Tech.
The veteran backbone of this team will win SEC games
Haley Troup, against the No. 11 team in the nation, scored 21 points. Hayley Frank can score on drives and shoot well. Lauren Hansen can also shoot well, too.
That shooting didn't materialize against Virginia Tech, and Pingeton gave the Hokies credit for being a great defensive team.
It did against Wake Forest. Missouri beat the Demon Deacons by 22, which was the largest margin of victory for Missouri over a Power 5 opponent since 2019. The likes Frank, Hansen, Troup and Jayla Kelly ushered in that win.
There are going to be teams like this in SEC play. Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt come to mind as teams that Missouri should beat. It won't be a cakewalk, it is the SEC, but the veterans the Tigers have should put them in a position to win games against teams that are trying to build a foundation.
However, the team's limitations will come into play against teams like Virginia Tech.
This team is in need of a go-to player
Missouri did lead Virginia Tech at halftime 28-26, but MU was outscored in the third quarter 23-9.
Pingeton mentioned how the team would like to have that third quarter back, especially since a better performance overall in that period could have won MU the game. However, the biggest statistical deficit from Wednesday afternoon lies in how the Hokies outshot Missouri.
Virginia Tech made 25 field goals on 57 attempts. Missouri made 18 field goals on 18 attempts. Pingeton said the Tigers had their opportunities to score and had good looks. Those looks just didn't fall for Missouri.
That's where a go-to offensive threat would have pushed the Tigers.
In the absence of Aijha Blackwell, MU has still been looking for that player who can take over a quarter. Blackwell did it on both ends for the Tigers, which is a very difficult commodity to find in the SEC.
If Missouri wants to win Top 25 games, which will come in SEC play, it needs to find someone that has the confidence to take over a game.
Frank can do it. She's scored in double figures in five of MU's seven games. Troup can be counted on for points, too. However, Missouri needs someone that can deliver a double-digit point quarter.
Katlyn Gilbert is a player Pingeton has said has some outstanding talent as a former McDonald's All-American and a starter at Notre Dame. She had 11 points against Wake Forest, but only played nine minutes against Virginia Tech after Pingeton said she left the game with an injury.
"Katlyn went down, obviously that changed things," Pingeton said.
Once she gets back to 100 percent, she might be that player. However, Pingeton has said it could be anyone that steps up for MU.
"Any given night, you never know who's going to step up for us," Pingeton said.
This team should still perform well in its remaining non-conference games
Missouri went 2-1 in what was considered its biggest test of the non-conference slate. Performing well against Virginia Tech proves the Tigers can rise to the occasion and play well, and that bodes well for their remaining non-conference games.
Arizona State, Illinois and Massachusets loom as winning teams. However, those teams aren't ranked in the Top 25.
Missouri can't afford to play the way it did against those three like it did against SEMO, UT Martin and Western Kentucky. That was sluggish basketball and it was slow. That pace will not bode well against Power 5 teams.
But, playing like it did against Wake Forest and Virginia Tech would lead to wins. The team has won without an elite-profile scoring player before, both this season and last, and can this year with consistency from its lineup.
It helps that Mama Dembele, who had nose surgery last week, was able to play with limited restrictions. Having her, plus a lineup that's beginning to go as far as 11 deep, will help the team's stamina.
All this is leading to a Dec. 29 conference opener in Lexington, Kentucky.
This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: Takeaways from 6-1 Mizzou women's basketball's Bahamas trip