The Missouri Tigers found themselves down at the half for the first time this season in their Thursday night matchup against the UT-Martin Skyhawks, but a valiant effort from Hayley Frank, Sara-Rose Smith, and Ashton Judd powered the Tigers to a 60-55 victory which left Tiger fans biting their nails to the very end.
“They were the more physical team tonight,” Head Coach Robin Pingeton said. “They have a lot of young kids, and I think we will see them show up later in the season.”
The Tigers were running on a thin bench from the very beginning, as they were missing both Mama Dembele (nasal surgery) and Averi Kroenke (walking boot) for the second straight game. Additionally, for the second straight game, Katlyn Gilbert failed to register any points from the starting point guard position.
“Katlyn has had a tough time adjusting to the starting role,” Pingeton said. “She really has had her hands forced to the fire, being seven months removed from having a child. We are really are working hard to get the rust off of her.”
Mizzou shot 40.4% from the field in this tilt which, in tandem with the 60 points they scored, is their lowest output this season so far. Defensively, they had a hard time stopping UT-Martin red-hot freshman Kenley McCarn, who finished the game with 15 points, which was tied for the most by any player on either team.
Ashton Judd once again showed that despite being a freshman that she belongs on a veteran roster, racking up 11 points and shooting a magnificent 5-7 from the field.
“That’s why we recruited her,” Pingeton said. “She fits our system and has a bright future ahead.”
After finding themselves down 26-25 at halftime, the Tigers turned to Hayley Frank to get them out of the hole, just as she has done in many times before, and she delivered. She shot 3-6 from the field and 4-4 from the free-throw line, racking up 11 points in the second half, finishing as the Tigers’ leading scorer with 15 points.
Sara-Rose Smith tallied a career-high 12 points in the game shooting 5-9 from the field and 2-4 from three-point range, she added to the points with 12 rebounds giving her her second double-double of the season.
The turning point of the game was the third quarter, as the Tigers held UT-Martin to just nine points and when they gained the lead in the third, they never lost it for the rest of the game.
Mizzou was 12-14 from the free throw line in this game, and that proved to be the difference as most of their point scoring late in the fourth quarter came from clutch free throws that put the game out of reach for the Skyhawks.
With the win, the Tigers are now 5-0 before heading to the Bahamas for the Baha Mar Classic, where they will go up against Wake Forest and then a really-tough Virginia Tech team which sits ranked at No. 14 in the country.
UP NEXT: The Tigers play the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Monday, November 21st at 4:30 CST in the Bahamas.