It is officially in-season tournament time for Mizzou Women’s Basketball (5-0) as they take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3-1) in the Baha Mar Pink Flamingo Championship in the Bahamas today at 4:30 CST.
The Demon Deacons are the most complete team the Tigers face this year. Wake has a new head coach this season in Megan Gabbia, who was able to retain every single player from last year’s roster with the exception of the two graduating seniors. Gabbia additionally brought in a highly talented Australian in Kate Deeble as her lone freshman recruit. Basically, Wake Forest likely has the best chemistry within their roster in all of Division 1.
Mizzou is going to have to find a way to break this squad early in order to come out on top. Here are the keys to the game for the Tigers.
1. Execute a complete offense
The downside to Mizzou’s slim win against UT-Martin was their inability to execute a fluid and complete offense until their backs were practically slammed against the wall. In the third quarter, they outscored UT-Martin 14-9 and sparked a more complete offense, but they were still so beyond lucky to come out with the win.
Mizzou absolutely must be patient on the offensive end and not rush their shots like last game. I touched on that in my early observations post from a few days ago. I am a firm believe that if Lauren Hansen and Hayley Frank did not rush their threes then that win would’ve probably ended in an absolute landslide.
I’m sure this key was more than likely a huge emphasis during practice and in the film room, both prior to departing for the Bahamas and during their on-site practice. When playing a team like Wake who already have an immense amount of overall chemistry, the Tigers will have to get out early on offense, but execute it patiently and fluidly.
2. Battle on the boards
Mizzou and Wake Forest fans are going to be in for a treat when it comes to the rebounding game. Both teams hold top-5 leaders in their respective conferences in rebounding. For Wake Forest, Demeara Hinds is their leader with 9.8 per game, while Sara-Rose Smith is Mizzou’s with 10.
The fun part about this matchup on the boards is how evenly matched both Hinds and Smith are with each other. Hinds is a 6’2 forward while Smith is a 6’1 guard, but both have similar skillsets when it comes to crashing the boards. Both players are extremely versatile with a knack for anticipating the missed shot on both ends right on release.
Everyone will be on the lookout for these two whenever they are in. If Jayla Kelly continues to start, then she’ll be the one tasked with containing Hinds on the boards. But rest assured, when Smith checks in, the battle between two of the best rebounders in their respective conferences will commence. I’ll have my popcorn out! Will you?
3. Eyes on Jewel Spear
Jewel Spear is Wake Forest’s best player and there’s no saying otherwise. She’s racked up tons of ACC accolades so far including the conference’s leading scorer last year, 2022 All-ACC First Team and 2021 ACC All-Freshman Team. If she wasn’t in a conference with Notre Dame she could’ve easily earned player of the year.
What makes Spear so special is that she’s a pure scorer who can drive and pull up for the midrange. She has the ability to shoot the three but her game is pretty centralized off the perimeter. So far this season she’s averaging 16.3 points and 4.5 rebounds on 42% shooting. The one detriment to her game is passing. As she’s a scorer she doesn’t necessarily have to rely on dishing out assists. But if Mizzou plays smart defense on her, she will be forced out of her comfort zone and pass the ball. The Tigers cannot allow Spear to get hot early. Defending her must be their top priority.
Mizzou takes on Wake Forest on today at 4:30 pm on Flohoops ($30 subscription). Might I recommend following the live stats or seeing if radio is available on the MUTigers app?