Last year Missouri transitioned out of the Sophie Cunningham era, and it was a little bumpy. Looking to recover from a lackluster 9-22 season, head coach Robin Pingeton is banking on a bevy of transfers to give the roster a much needed jolt.
The lineup is still centered around sophomore standouts Aijha Blackwell and Hayley Frank, but it’s been bolstered with ball handlers and shooters, and for the first time in a few years, some real depth.
This being a COVID year, however, not everything has been bump free. Mizzou dealt with some COVID issues within the program and had to cancel three games early. So their eight game non-conference slate turned into an opener, plus a four game whirlwind:
- Nov 27, North Alabama: 96-78 WIN
- Nov 29, at Saint Louis: Cancelled
- Dec 2, Morehead State: Cancelled
- Dec 6, TCU: Cancelled
- Dec 14, Missouri State: 72-58, LOSS
- Dec 16, New Orleans: 84-45, WIN
- Dec 19, Oral Roberts: 88-49, WIN
- Dec 20, Southern Illinois: 79-43, WIN
So aside from a tough shooting night in the... second game — coming off a program pause, and against a top 25 Missouri State team — Mizzou has been running teams out of the gym. So what’s working? Let’s dive into the numbers:
- Things which should translate: Shooting. eFG of 60%, over 40% from 3, nearly 60% from 2.
- Things you hope can clean up: Ball-handling, a turnover rate of 24% despite more ball handlers on the roster than they had last year.
- An area of concern: Mizzou isn’t getting to the line at a very high rate. You’d expect a much larger disparity of FTA/FGA considering their opponents. And when they are getting to the line they aren’t really converting.
If you’re a “silver lining” type, looking at Mizzou’s offense, when they’re taking care of the ball they are generating a high assist rate at nearly 28% when they don’t turn the ball over, and 60% (!!!) on field goal makes.
Trifecta: Hayley Frank, Ladazhia Williams, Aijha Blackwell
So it should be no surprise to see Hayley Frank and Aijha Blackwell at the top here, but it’s a nice refreshing surprise to see the highly rated transfer from South Carolina stepping in early to a nice role. Ladazhia Williams was a top 40 forward who didn’t quite fit into Dawn Staley’s plans, but she’s filling in a big need for Mizzou.
I also want to point out Shug Dickson. Dickson isn’t starting, but plays a really good backup point guard role to date for Mizzou. They’ve been starting Williams, Frank, and Blackwell, along with Mama Dembele and Haley Troup. It’s basically a four guard lineup with Williams at the five, and Dembele at the point. With the competition a little soft, the lineups were able to be pretty fluid and everyone has been playing a fair amount of minutes.
But once they were faced with some adversity, only Dickson and Dufficy saw significant minutes against the Missouri State Lady Bears.
Frank has basically been the Mark Smith of the women’s team. She’s an efficient scorer with low usage numbers. And she seems to be a good compliment to Blackwell’s high usage. For reference, Xavier Pinson’s usage rate is over 33% so far this year, and Blackwell is hovering around 31%. When you factor in the competition level, those numbers are unexpectedly high.
Dickson’s numbers are looking good here, too. Good usage rates for a point guard, low turnover rates, a 50% floor percentage and 2/3’s pass percentage.
Again, looking at the turnover rates it’s a little concerning to see some many rates in double digits. But the good news is starting point guard Dembele is at 6%, and Shug Dickson is at 5%. So the point guards are taking care of the ball.
The schedule turns in a hurry. Five SEC teams are in the top 25, with South Carolina, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Mississippi State, and Kentucky all showing out so far. Missouri faces just one of those teams in their first six games, which is their January 3rd trip to Fayetteville. Coming up this week, Karen will be giving you a more in-depth look into the roster. But with Mizzou sitting at 4-1 after four 40 point romps, you have to feel pretty confident they’ll have a much stronger showing in league play this year.
Things all kick off this Thursday, on New Years Eve at Mizzou Arena.