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The good, the bad and the ugly: Mizzou women’s basketball early observations

Let’s check out some early observations ahead of the Baha Mar Championship.

Jaydyn Isiminger/Mizzou Athletics

We’re five games into the 2022-2023 Mizzou women’s basketball season and it has not disappointed. The Tigers are a perfect 5-0 after their close win against UT-Martin on Thursday. Despite no blemish on their record, this team’s had its share of good, bad, and ugly moments so far, which is not uncommon with players taking on vastly different roles than the previous season.

There is a lot of content to cover from the first five games so I’m going to categorize them like hinted above. Let’s look at the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good: Ashton Judd and Sara-Rose Smith

Freshman Ashton Judd and junior Sara-Rose Smith have been two of the most exciting players on this Mizzou roster thus far. For a team that needed players to step up big time with their thin bench, the duo has answered the call and produced.

Let’s start with Judd. Was I expecting her to make an immediate impact in the way of scoring? She’s currently third on the team in scoring, averaging 9 points per game, with vets Lauren Hansen (13.2) and Hayley Frank (13) are ahead of her. Did I expect Judd to lead the team in scoring percentage (56.3%) for anyone who’s attempted over 20 shots thus far? The answer to those two questions is absolutely not. But am I shocked at how well she is producing so far to begin the season? Not really. Judd’s been providing a pleasant spark off the bench to go alongside Smith, who I will get to in a second. With Katlyn Gilbert now starting in place of Mama Dembele as she recovers from a broken nose, Judd absolutely needs to continue this momentum throughout the rest of non-conference play in order for the Tigers to remain successful.

Smith’s impact has been a pleasant surprise in the sheer sense that fans have not really seen her in that much action these past two seasons. With the departure of key players from last season’s roster, we knew Smith’s role would exponentially increase, but to what end? Apparently the end is non-existent and Mizzou is very much thankful for that.

Smith’s been the focal part of the bench and the bona fide rebounder for the Tigers. A giant question mark coming into the season was who would be the next rebounder for Mizzou? Coach Pingeton’s said that the team will need to “rebound by committee” and Sara-Rose has clearly taken that to heart. She’s recorded two double-doubles so far this season, which is also the first two of her career. Her first came in the season opener at Missouri State where she recorded 10 points and 10 rebounds. Her second came last night against UT-Martin where she recorded a career high 12 points and 12 rebounds. If Smith keeps this up throughout the rest of the season, she’s on track for an exemplary year.

The Bad: Three point shooting

Coming into the season, I did not expect three-point shooting to be an issue. When contemplating this post, I did not think it was going to be bad that it’d qualify under this category. It quite literally pains me to do this, and I am so sorry.

Let’s start from the very beginning. Against Missouri State, the team drained [checks every single note in the universe] ONE three out of 13 attempts, which came from Hayley Frank. They bounced back with 10 threes made against Bradley but then simmered down against SEMO. Against the Red Hawks, Mizzou [checks every note again] made TWO out of 10 attempts which came from Frank and Judd. Mizzou hit eight threes out of 23 attempts against Western Kentucky and six out of 25 attempts against UT-Martin.

Missouri’s two main three point shooters, Hayley Frank and Lauren Hansen, are just not producing the way Mizzou fans know they’re able to. Frank is 7-21 (33%) of three pointers made while Hansen is a team worst 7-31 (22.6%) from beyond-the-arc. If you need one game to showcase Hansen’s struggles in particular, just go back to last night’s game against UT-Martin.

Hansen only made one of her eight attempts from three against UT-Martin with a few of them being good looks. She attempted a few off of high perimeter screens which left her wide open. By all means fire away even if they don’t go in. But on the contrary, she threw up so many rushed threes that either barely hit front iron or were extremely strong. Some of those were contested as well and not late into the shot clock. For some reason this is becoming a trend for Lauren that needs to get resolved and I believe will get resolved sooner rather than later.

For Frank, she’s also taken extremely rushed shots from deep areas that don’t really make sense. A lot of her misses have come from when the offense can still execute for better shots in the post or another set up from outside. Mizzou is relying on her to drain her threes but also take smart shots and execute the offense as the go-to player.

This is not to discredit the absolute pure talent of Hansen and Frank because I know they have it in them to come out of this rough start. These pair of seniors are sure to clean up their shooting woes and increase their patience and overall shot IQ. The main question is when will this happen? Knowing them two, it’ll more than likely be fixed sooner rather than later.

The Ugly: Turnovers

Every night when I go to sleep, I dream about all the turnovers Mizzou commits and I wake up in a cold sweat with my heart pounding right out of my chest. Okay, I don’t actually do that but sometimes I just need to be dramatic.

The turnover bug is still clearly haunting the Tigers but thankfully it hasn’t resulted in any losses; yet. But if you want a scare from the ghost of turnovers, let’s look at the numbers.

Mizzou’s turned the ball over a total of 84 times, which is 16.8 turnovers per game. But wait, it gets worse. Of those 84 TO, 36 have come from steals, which means 48 of them are unforced turnovers, good for just above 57% of the time. I can’t give you an exact amount of each unforced turnover but a scary amount has resulted from the notorious travel and throwing the ball to the fans in the stands.

No team is perfect when it comes to turnovers. In the past, Pingeton’s made it clear that the maximum amount of turnovers she wants her team to commit is 12. In an ideal world she’d want zero but what coach doesn’t? A lot of these errors can be fixed easily and I’m sure that’s stressed in practice and film sessions.

One day I hope to never have to write about how ugly these turnovers are. Turnovers are quite literally game changing on both ends. Let’s hope this trip to the Bahamas shows a clean up on the turnover level.

Full stats for the first five games as of November 17, 2022.

Up next: Mizzou heads to the Bahamas to face off against Wake Forest on November 21 at 4:30 pm and Virginia Tech on November 23 (best day ever!!!) at 12:30 pm in the Baha Mar Championship. This will be broadcast on Flohoops where you can buy a $30 subscription (sarcastic yay).