Arguably the most exciting game on Mizzou’s schedule will be the one kicking off their conference schedule. The 11-2 Tigers welcome the undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks to Columbia on Thursday night, when the Gamecocks will put their undefeated record — and maybe their No. 1 national ranking — on the line.
It is a well known fact that there is a rivalry between the two squads that naturally developed. Do I really want to delve into how that happened? Not at all. But I will say that having a rivalry develop instead of it being preset — I’m looking at you, Arkansas — makes the games even more entertaining.
South Carolina is ranked at the top of the college basketball heap for a reason. Aside from being undefeated, they’ve played one of the toughest schedules in the NCAA this season. In 12 non-conference games, they bulldozed through six Top 25 ranked teams like it’s their daily routine.
Mizzou, on the other hand, didn’t have South Carolina’s strength of schedule, but they did face tough competition and different play styles that can help give them the edge.
The Tigers are 3-8 overall against the Gamecocks, but do have a 3-2 home record. Home-court advantage and fan energy will be a huge plus for Mizzou.
If you’re going to match up against the best, you have to play like them. Here are some keys to defeating Columbia East.
Just give the ball to Haley Troup and LaDazhia Williams. If you don’t know why, they’re the South Carolina transfers...Okay y’all, I’m just joking around. (Or am I?)
Now for the real stuff.
1. Shoot like your life depends on it
The last thing an offense wants to do against South Carolina is get punished at the rim by Aliyah Boston. Mizzou is going to be at a pretty decent size disadvantage, depending on how Coach Staley decides to use her bench. Going inside when a shooter is wide open will help keep the ball rolling.
South Carolina does a great job of limiting shooting percentages from beyond-the-arc, allowing only 26.7%, but Mizzou is full of sharpshooters. It’s going to take all five players on the Gamecocks’ defense to stop the Tigers from throwing up every shot they can.
2. Force Staley to go to her bench
Now this is a fun part that I have been waiting to write about for months. Top teams like South Carolina, UConn and Baylor don’t run more than a six/seven person rotation. At the Gamecocks’ last game against Stanford, Staley played 10, but only really used seven players for the majority of the game. It takes a lot for these coaches to go to their bench. Some won’t even go when there’s two minutes left in a game and they’re up by more than 20 points.
By any means necessary, Mizzou has to find a way to force Staley to insert her bench players. If the Tigers can get South Carolina to play loose with the ball, it may happen. The Gamecocks have turned the ball over 178 times, while forcing 162.
I don’t have the solution for this to happen and it’s a long-shot. But if anyone can find a way, the Tigers can.
3. Someone other than Aijha Blackwell needs to grab rebounds
Blackwell will continue to fight for rebounds like she’s done all season. But when matched up against Boston and Victaria Saxton, reinforcements are a must.
I’m not saying Mama Dembele needs to go in and fight for the boards — if she gets a few over Boston, I’ll fall off my chair. Hayley Frank and Haley Troup, although still at a height disadvantage, must relieve some of that pressure on Blackwell.
Mizzou is well-rested and ready for this fight. May Williams get her first W against her former team and may both her and Troup make the opposing fans sad.
Mizzou will be without Aijha Blackwell according to her twitter.
Tuned in— Aijha Blackwell (@AijhaAnniece) December 30, 2021
According to ABC 17’s Nathalie Jones, Mizzou is also without Michah Linthacum, Skylah Travis, Jayla Kelly and Neci Trusty.
By my count there are six players missing for Mizzou against No. 1 South Carolina.— Nathalie Jones (@NathalieABC17) December 30, 2021
Most notably: No Aijha Blackwell or Izzy Higginbottom going through warmups. Micah Linthacum, Skylah Travis, Jayla Kelly, and Da’Necia Trusty all also missing. This is due to COVID protocols. pic.twitter.com/jW1GQOSqRN
KOMU’s Nate Brenner lays out who’s on the court for Mizzou. Haley Troup, Sara-Rose Smith, Sarah Linthacum, Mama Dembele, Hayley Frank, Ladazhia Williams and Kiya Dorroh are the eight available tonight.
Currently on the floor: Troup, Rose-Smith, Dembele, Frank, Dorroh, Hansen, Williams and Sarah Linthacum. By my count, that adds up to the eight that @CoachPingeton said the Tigers would have at their disposal. @KOMUsports— Nate Brenner (@NateBrenner4) December 30, 2021
Brand new starting five. Williams is back in the lineup. The rest is normal with Dembele, Troup, Hansen and Frank.
Tonight’s starting five ⬇️#OurTownOurTeam pic.twitter.com/AwesKX0JhU— Mizzou Basketball (@MizzouWBB) December 30, 2021
Troup hustles to grab the rebound away from Aliyah Boston.
Frank draws a charge off Saxton.
Frank draws another charge off Boston on back-to-back possessions.
Williams, just like last season, gets Mizzou’s first bucket. Mizzou trail 2-5.
Dembele with the drive and bounce pass to Hansen for the floater. Mizzou trails 4-7.
Williams steps through and gets a layup. Mizzou trails 6-9.
Frank steps back for a deep three. Tigers trail 9-12.
Hansen drives, spins and frees herself from her opponent and Mizzou trails by one.
At the end of the first, Mizzou trails no. 1 South Carolina 11-12.
Troup drives and swing passes to Hansen for a corner three. Mizzou leads South Carolina 14-12.
Frank takes a low block elbow jumper over her defender. Mizzou retakes the lead, 16-14.
Frank hits a wide open Frank on the right wing. Mizzou leads by three, 19-16.
Frank is fouled shooting a three. She sinks all of them and Mizzou leads 22-18.
Williams posts up Saxton and converts the layup for the and-one. She sinks the free throw. Mizzou leads 25-19.
Williams steps through the defense again and converts another layup. Mizzou up 27-19.
Williams spins and launches a jumper. She has 11 points on 5/7 shooting. Mizzou up 29-22.
Frank launches from DEEP again and drains the three. Mizzou up 32-24.
Halftime: Mizzou leads 32-26. They exploded in the second quarter.
Williams: 11 points and six rebounds.
Frank: 14 points.
Hansen: 7 points.
Frank drives, spins and gets around Saxton for the and-one opportunity, Mizzou’s first points of the third quarter. She converts the free throw and Tigers lead 35-31. She has 17.
Troup hesitates and lefty scoops for the layup for her first points of the game. Mizzou leads 37-33.
Hansen drives left off a screen from Williams and converts the layup. Tigers retake the lead, up 39-38.
Dorroh draws a foul with the shot clock at one off an offensive rebound. She drains both of the free throws and Mizzou leads 41-40.
Williams is fouled with five on the shot clock. She splits her free throws and Mizzou leads 42-40.
Hansen is fouled on the three point attempt off the inbound. She makes all three of them and Mizzou is up 45-43.
At the end of the third quarter, it’s all tied up at 45.
Hansen drives and takes it to the rack for two for the first points of the fourth.. Mizzou leads 47-45.
Dembele hits a corner three and Mizzou is up 50-45.
Out of the timeout, Troup ran the exact play from the first half. Dribble drive baseline and a swing pass to Hansen for the wide open three.
Dembele hits another three pointer, her second of the night. Mizzou leads 56-50.
Hansen with the mismatch with Boston. Instead of settling for the three, she drives and is fouled on the floor by Boston, her 4th.
Dembele drives over Boston and converts the layup. Mizzou up 58-52.
Dembele with another drive to the basket for a lefty layup. She is on fire this quarter. Mizzou up 60-54.
With the shot clock running down, Frank dribbles up for the jumper. Mizzou leads 62-56 with 2:36 to go.
Troup steals the pass and draws the foul on the other end. She splits the free throws and Mizzou is up 63-62 with less than a minute to go.
Dembele is fouled by Henderson with 29.4 to go. She goes to the free throw line and she makes one. Mizzou leads 64-62. Time out South Carolina.
Zia Cooke missed the opportunity to secure the game for the Gamecocks. We’re going to overtime tied at 64 all.
Hansen ends South Carolina’s 7-0 on a layup. Mizzou trails 66-69.
Frank drives and converts a reverse layup. Mizzou trails 68-69.
Mizzou calls a timeout with 14.1 left. Troup is injured on the other side and carried to the locker room.
Lauren Hansen hits a layup with 0.1 seconds left. Mizzou leads 70-69.
FINAL: Mizzou defeats no. 1 South Carolina 70-69 in overtime!