The Missouri Tigers headed into their bout against the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks knowing that this game would be a good initial measuring stick as to how they will fare in SEC-play, as the Redhawks came into the game fresh off of a 83-57 shellacking by Ole Miss. It’s safe to say the Tigers did not expect the defensive dogfight they had to take part in.
The Redhawks came into the game with 15 steals per game, which is good for Top-30 in D1 Basketball, and they showed that prowess today against the Tigers, forcing 23 turnovers. Head Coach Robin Pingeton had a puzzled look on her face on numerous occasions throughout the game, as most of these turnovers were unforced errors that led to easy Redhawk points.
The game started off according to plan for the Tigers as junior center Jayla Kelly knocked in two easy buckets inside the paint to open the game. However, SEMO fought back with the aid of their bench, who scored eight of their 12 first half points, and quickly found themselves only down 14-12 to the Tigers after the first frame.
Of massive note in the game was senior Hayley Frank’s ability to draw offensive fouls and put the Redhawks in foul trouble, a trait of hers which she was asked about postgame.
“Sometimes you just have to win ugly,” Frank said. “I have been taking charges since high school. I am not the quickest defender but sometimes you just have to get in there and take it.”
The Redhawks finished the game out-fouling the Tigers 23-8, which was a result of an increased sense of physicality from SEMO.
In the second quarter, it was more of the same from the Tigers as offensive buckets would then be followed by costly turnovers and they just couldn’t seem to pull away from the Redhawks, as the Redhawk bench accounted for 21 of their 25 first half points. Most of those points came from standout guard Rahmena Henderson, who put in the work on the Tigers inside defenders in the paint. For the Tigers, it was none other than Hayley Frank who accounted for the bulk of the scoring, with Sara-Rose Smith putting in yet another balanced effort in the paint.
The Tigers outscored the Redhawks 20-6 in the paint at halftime, showcasing yet again the massive improvement Coach Pingeton’s team has made inside the paint despite losing a gargantuan number of contributors in that part of the court.
Things could not have started out worse for the Tigers in the second half, however, as the Redhawks raced out to an early 6-0 run to take a 31-29 lead. On top of that, star PG Mama Dembele had to be carried off the court with an apparent head injury, which left Pingeton with only one option at the PG spot in Katlyn Gilbert. (Averi Kroenke was not dressed and was in a walking boot.)
Mizzou turned to none other than Frank for a momentum boost as she drained a jumper and sunk a three-pointer on consecutive possessions, to keep the Tigers in the lead despite the Redhawks’ repeated offensive scoring. Most of this scoring came from Kennedi Watkins, who was 5-7 in the third quarter with 10 of the Redhawks 17 third quarter points.
Tactically, SEMO decided to switch from their man-to-man defense that was working so well in the first half and opted for a zone defense, and it immediately paid dividends, leading to multiple turnovers and points off turnovers for the Redhawks.
Freshman Ashton Judd had a nice showing against Bradley and she built off of that in this game, accumulating 11 points off the bench with most of them coming up during crunch time in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers rode a 12-0 run from the end of the third quarter to the middle of the fourth quarter, which helped them pull away for a 62-50 victory over their in-state rivals, pushing them to 18-1 all-time against SEMO. The Tigers are now 3-0 on the season.
Despite the alarming amount of negatives in this game for the Tigers, they showed they have no problem rebounding this year as they outrebounded the Redhawks 40-26, with most of those rebounds coming from Sara-Rose Smith, Ashton Judd, and Haley Troup.
UP NEXT: Missouri takes on Western Kentucky on Monday, November 14th, at 7 PM CST.