After suffering an absolutely heartbreaking 87-85 overtime loss at LSU on January 13, the Missouri Tigers are back in action at The Zou to take on yet another top-25 opponent in the No. 17 Georgia Bulldogs. The game will be broadcast at 6 pm on SECN.
Mizzou continues to show they can contend with the best the SEC has to offer even if the result isn’t what people hoped for. Last Sunday, the Tigers traveled to Fayetteville to face a heavily underrated Arkansas squad and clawed back into the game from a 20-point plus deficit at halftime. Then on Thursday they played a very talented No. 12 LSU squad in Baton Rouge and took them to overtime, before ultimately falling by the thinnest of margins. Given the stiff competition, neither result should give fans a reason to be devastated.
Nevertheless, let’s not dwell on the past. Mizzou has another tough conference task against a Georgia team tonight that some might say are exceeding the highest of expectations laid out for this season.
Due to the blanket Covid waiver, the Bulldogs bring back star center Jenna Staiti and guard Que Morrison, both of whom were two key pieces in last season’s 21-7 finish.
Sophomore Sarah Ashlee Barker has emerged as a key overall piece to Georgia, entering the starting lineup after receiving All-SEC Freshman honors last season.
The Bulldogs have a ton of weapons to choose from and being able to stop them will be crucial to keeping the game close or pulling out the win.
Here are the keys to the game.
1. Keep the ball away from the post.
Against LSU, Mizzou gave away many open lanes to the hoop, but also allowed LSU’s post players to get easy buckets down low. Not having LaDazhia Williams available to bring more on an interior defensive threat surely was an issue in that game. Against a player like Staiti, though, that absolutely can’t happen.
The 6’4 center is currently averaging 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game with practically all of her shots coming from down low. Last season, she walked all over Mizzou, recording 17 points and 11 rebounds on 62% shooting. There’s no saying she won’t be able to do that again unless the Tigers up their defensive intensity against her.
Georgia will look to take advantage of Mizzou’s height differential, especially if Williams is still out with her groin injury. If Williams isn’t active, the Tigers will need Hayley Frank to step up mightily and help out down low, along with Aijha Blackwell.
2. Shut down Que Morrison.
Morrison is quick, athletic and a great shooter. She also made the All-SEC defensive team in 2021 and was named the co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Morrison will do everything in her power to score, dish the ball to a teammate, grab a rebound and pick your pocket.
Basically, she is a threat right when she touches the floor. This season, she is averaging 14.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5 assists and a little under 2.2 steals per game on 43.4% shooting.
Against Mizzou last season, the Tigers did a good job of shutting her down on offense, only allowing 11 points on 33% shooting, but she did grab 10 rebounds.
Morrison isn’t a terrifying threat from three, only making 16 of her 41 attempts for 39% shooting. The majority of her shots come from the midrange and at the hoop, which allows for her to get to the foul line. From the charity stripe, Morrison is lethal. She leads Georgia in free throw attempts (63), makes (57) and percentage (90.5%).
As noted before, her perimeter defense and ability to disrupt the passing lanes allows her to set up either herself or teammates in transition. Most notably Barker, who is leading the Bulldogs in three point makes and attempts on 24-68 or 35.3% shooting.
Putting the clamps on Morrison and taking care of the ball on offense is crucial in not allowing her to get hot and take over.
3. You may live and die by the three but still go down low.
Against LSU, Mizzou heavily relied on the three against a tough interior defense. Most notably, Lauren Hansen and Frank were automatic from beyond the arc. They’re the first teammates to drain 6+ threes in the same game in program history. Hansen hit seven and Frank hit a career-tying six.
The first Mizzou teammates to each hit 6+ threes in a single game.#OurTownOurTeam pic.twitter.com/gNHDfmqzGx— Mizzou Basketball (@MizzouWBB) January 16, 2022
I’m not worried about Mizzou draining their threes and midrange jumpers; that really hasn’t been an issue this season.
However, if Mizzou wants to have an even better chance of winning, they have to go down low to Blackwell and Williams (if she’s available). Frank should also get involved down low as she can post up and hit from the low block.
Sure, Staiti has 37 blocks on the season and Malury Bates is second on the team with 25. Those two are the only true defensive post presences Georgia has. The rest of the team has 41 total blocks. If the Tigers don’t pound inside on offense and force the Bulldogs to potentially foul with added defensive pressure, they’ll have a tough time slowing them down.