Mizzou Tigers women’s basketball can’t complete comeback against No. 13 Georgia

·5 min read
Courtesy of Mizzou Athletics

Through the first two months of the season, Missouri women’s basketball had only lost two games.

But the SEC schedule is a different beast. The Tigers have dropped three games in a row in eight days, most recently falling to No. 13 Georgia 72-62 on Monday night at Mizzou Arena.

The loss ended the Tigers’ undefeated home streak; they entered the contest with a 9-0 record in Columbia.

Obviously, disappointed but also understand we’re playing some really good teams,” Mizzou coach Robin Pingeton said. “My message in the locker room is we’ve got to be able to control what we can control better ... You’re playing against the best of the best night in and night out, so that margin of error is so small.”

Missouri (13-5, 2-3 SEC) fell behind early after allowing Georgia (14-3, 3-2 SEC) to start the game on a 7-0 run in less than a minute and a half.

The Tigers weren’t able to bring things closer than four points in the first quarter as they struggled with turnovers and gave up easy mid-range looks on defense. At the end of the quarter, Mizzou trailed 23-10 after coughing the ball up six times and allowing the Bulldogs to shoot 64.3% from the floor.

“I didn’t think we played with great pace,” Pingeton said. “I felt like they sped us up.”

But the rest of the game was a different story. Missouri held Georgia under 37% shooting in each of the final three quarters.

“They came out hot and everything was falling for them,” Pingeton said. “So we tried to switch it up to our zone. I thought our zone maybe just slowed the tempo down a little bit.”

Missouri went on a 10-3 run in less than three minutes in the second to trim the deficit to 26-19. Star guard Aijha Blackwell scored five of those points, sandwiched by a steal-and-score from guard Mama Dembele.

Though the Tigers couldn’t keep the momentum, soon stuck in a five minute drought, they still managed to outscore the Bulldogs 21-11 in the quarter. They entered halftime trailing by just three, 34-31.

After only taking one shot attempt in the first period, Blackwell scored nine of the Tigers’ points in the second quarter. She entered the break with 11 points and four rebounds.

Missouri kept things close in the third quarter but entered the final frame down 49-44.

The Tigers had multiple chances to bring the game within one or two points at the free-throw line, but they only made 6 of 10 in the third quarter. They made 12 of 18 (67%) free throws on the evening.

“In these games, when you’re playing elite level teams, everything adds up,” Pingeton said. “And you’re not going to play perfect, but you’ve got to make sure you you control what you can control.”

Hayley Frank had been quiet for much of the night, but she got hot when Missouri needed it most. The junior forward hit three consecutive three-pointers in the fourth quarter, trimming the deficit to 56-55 with under five minutes left.

However, Frank’s efforts wouldn’t be enough. The Tigers then let up on the defensive end, allowing their opponent to go on a 7-0 run in around two minutes. Down eight points, Mizzou didn’t have enough left in the tank to complete the comeback.

“It definitely is not a good feeling losing, no one on the squad likes to lose,” Frank said. “A lot of (what we need to get better at) is controllable things, which I think is honestly what’s exciting — because we get a few of these things figured up and I feel like we’re winning these ballgames against really good teams.”

Here are some key takeaways from the game.

Turnovers woes

The Tigers committed 16 turnovers in the loss, marking their fourth consecutive game in double figures in that category.

“I just felt like there were some turnovers that really didn’t need to happen,” Pingeton said. “I think that’s where we’re coming up a little bit short is our focus, our attention to detail, our discipline to dominate simple, and all those possessions add up.”

In a tight game, that made a huge impact. Georgia was able to take advantage of Missouri’s mistakes, scoring 11 points from those turnovers.

In each of Mizzou’s five losses this season, it has turned the ball over at least 13 times. The Tigers will need to take better care of the ball.

Second-chance points

Though Missouri won the rebounding battle on Monday night, 36-33, it didn’t take advantage.

Georgia had 11 offensive rebounds compared to 10 for Mizzou. Five of those came from center Jenna Staiti, who finished with a team-high 22 points and 12 total rebounds.

The difference was that the Bulldogs turned those opportunities into points, whereas the Tigers didn’t. Georgia finished with 16 second-chance points, whereas Mizzou only had six.

It’s worth noting that Missouri was without one of its best low post players in forward LaDazhia Williams, who has now sat out two straight games with a groin injury.

Blackwell gets buckets

One of the biggest reasons Missouri fell behind early in this game was because Blackwell wasn’t getting enough touches. She only attempted one shot in the first quarter.

Once Blackwell got going, it was a different story. She scored nine of the Tigers’ 21 points in the second quarter and entered halftime with 11 points and four rebounds.

“It’s no rush to get shots after a couple of misses,” Blackwell said. “I just decided to feel the game more and slow it down and just focus on driving and passing out.”

Blackwell finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds for her 12th double-double of the season. She’s scored at least 20 points seven different times this year as well.

However, her efforts wouldn’t be enough to get the Tigers an upset victory.

Frank finished with 18 points and seven rebounds. The other member of the star trio, guard Lauren Hansen, had an off night, only scoring 10 points on 4 of 14 shooting.