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Missouri drops tough game to Arkansas for first SEC loss

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The Tigers looked a bit rusty, but showed positive signs in their first SEC loss.

Mizzou Tigers vs. South Carolina Gamecocks at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, MO. on Thursday, December 30, 2021.
Hunter Dyke/Mizzou Athletics

After a midweek comeback win over Auburn, the Missouri Tigers ventured south to Bud Walton Arena to face an underrated Arkansas Razobacks squad hungry for their first SEC win.

Alas, Mizzou wasn’t able to contain Arkansas’ quick transition play off live ball turnovers and scorching three-point shooting in a 83-73 loss, dropping the Tigers to 2-1 in conference play and 13-3 overall.

Even in losses, there are always bright spots to focus and build upon. Here are some takeaways from the loss to Arkansas.

Mama could not be stopped

If you would’ve told me before this game that Mama Dembele would flat out go off, I wouldn’t have necessarily believed you.

We know Dembele is capable of producing a hot shooting hand when the team needs it most, and Sunday was no exception. She recorded a career high 16 points, shooting 3-3 from beyond the arc (also a career high) to go with five assists.

I wrote about Dembele’s shooting at the beginning of the season, but seeing her confidence bloom as a shooter has been so important for Mizzou this season, whether or not the ball goes in.

The Tigers will more often than not win with their depth, and Dembele is playing a crucial role in that pursuit.

Even with poor shooting, Aijha Blackwell got a double-double.

Blackwell is still shaking off some rust after coming off COVID protocols, but that’s to be expected. She missed a few easy bunnies and couldn’t find her groove against Arkansas, shooting a paltry 3-12 from the floor.

Nevertheless, her impact on the game was apparent, especially on the boards. Blackwell recorded 11 points and 14 rebounds and was able to disrupt some of Arkansas’ hot shooting.

Even on her off nights, Blackwell will still put in 100% effort and show up for the team. Hopefully she’s able to regain peak game shape soon.

Transition defense was non-existent

I know I said at the beginning that I was going to look at the bright spots, but the transition defense needs to be addressed.

Mizzou only forced Arkansas to turn the ball over twice, which is a huge credit to the way the Razorbacks are able to protect the ball. On the other side, the Tigers turned the ball over 13 times — not especially terrible, except when you’re playing a quick team like Arkansas. The Razorbacks turned those turnovers into 13 points, with a majority being off easy, wide-open layups.

It didn’t help that the Tigers were without the services of LaDazhia Williams, who left the game after 11 minutes of play due to an injury. Not having her height or defensive presence in the inside to help disrupt the lane was enough for Arkansas to take advantage.

Even with the loss, Mizzou fans shouldn’t push the panic button. The Tigers fought back in the second half, but the Razorbacks were too much for them to handle without LaDazhia and Haley Troup. Ideally, Williams will be OK and Troup will return to the rotation from COVID protocols by the next game.

Mizzou takes on the No. 12 LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge on Thursday, January 13, at 7 pm. You can watch the game on SECN+.