Missouri dropped their third SEC game (and first home loss this season) to the Jenna Staiti-led Georgia Bulldogs on Monday night, 72-62.
The Tigers struggled in the first quarter, allowing Georgia to go on a 7-0 run before Hayley Frank shut it down with a two point jumper. The Bulldogs are a team that has struggled throughout the season to get off to hot starts in the first quarter. After the first quarter, Georgia led 23-10.
Missouri came out with vengeance in the second quarter. Dembele hit a phenomenal reverse layup in transition after a Blackwell rebound. That started a 6-0 Tigers run before Sarah Ashlee Barker hit a three. After that, Blackwell, Frank and Hansen drained some threes of their own and the offense was clicking. The defense also started to click and Mizzou outscored Georgia 21-11 to end the half and cut the deficit to three.
The third quarter was a tight one that was primarily based around solid defense on both ends. Center Jenna Staiti started to get going after only accounting for 4 of Georgia’s 34 first half points. She had seven in the third quarter which helped expose Mizzou’s lack of post defense without the injured LaDazhia Williams.
Despite the slow start, Frank, Aijha Blackwell, and Lauren Hansen caught fire and kept it relatively close. Georgia’s lead was cut to one early in the fourth quarter after a deep three from Frank, who had Missouri’s first 11 points of the quarter until Blackwell got involved.
Unfortunately, the Tigers weren’t able to capitalize on their momentum. The Bulldogs scored 11 unanswered and the rest is history.
Here are the takeaways from Mizzou’s loss to Georgia.
1. Missouri was unable to defend the midrange.
A big factor as to why Georgia was able to get hot so fast was primarily due to midrange jumpers from Sarah Ashlee Barker, Que Morrison, Mikayla Coombs and Jordan Isaacs. I wrote in my preview about how crucial it was to defend the midrange, especially Morrison.
Mizzou’s defense was lackluster against the midrange. They had a tough time rotating and allowed Georgia to get open looks. Even when they contested, it wasn’t enough. Georgia is not a team to lay off jumper shot attempts, and it was on full display last night.
2. AB did AB things.
Blackwell looks like she’s back to her old self after seemingly struggling in the first few games post-Covid. By struggling, y’all know I mean shooting numbers and fatigue. Even when she’s down, she’s still putting up fantastic numbers.
After starting off the game extremely slow on offense, she was able to drain a midrange jumper that had the shooters roll from the front of the iron at the 2:36 mark in the first quarter.
She scored 20 of her 27 points in the second half and was not willing to back down. Honestly, when does she ever back down? The answer is never.
Blackwell finished with a stat line of a season-high 27 points and 13 rebounds on 57% shooting for her 13th double-double of the season.
Her performance last night against Georgia and Thursday against LSU earned her SEC Co-Player of the week honors with South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston.
3. There may have been zero bench points but Sara-Rose Smith showed up.
In a shocking turn of events, Mizzou’s bench was quite silent on Monday. The only bench player even attempting a shot was Sara-Rose Smith. And as for the defense, Coach Pingeton didn’t really utilize her bench as much as she usually does, only amounting to 28 minutes on the floor.
Smith was Coach P’s go to woman off the bench. What I’ve noticed throughout the season is when Smith and Kiya Dorroh enter the game, Mizzou’s defensive intensity is boosted. Dorroh only hit the floor for under a minute, so it was Smith’s turn to shine.
Smith had so many hustle plays that don’t show up on the stat sheet. She dove for balls, helped save a potential jump ball from Frank and crashed the boards. She played for 17 minutes and had five rebounds with two being crucial ones on the offensive end.
Smith is a big-guard who elevates the defense. Last night was no exception even though Mizzou lost.
Next up, Mizzou travels to Nashville to face the Vanderbilt Commodores at 7 pm on SECN+ for the rescheduled game.