Throughout the entirety of the off-season, one of the biggest question marks surrounding Mizzou Women’s Basketball was whether they could rebound effectively with major losses in the paint via the transfer portal and graduation, and whether senior Hayley Frank could compensate for those losses.
Boy, did she do that and more.
Frank exploded for 17 points whilst shooting 6-10 from the field, despite having to sit out a considerable portion of the first and second quarter due to foul trouble. She was not alone though, as junior Sara-Rose Smith picked up a double-double off the bench with 10 points and 10 rebounds accrued on the night. Both of those numbers are significant improvements for Smith, who averaged a measly 1.5 points and 2.3 rebounds per game in 31 games played last year.
The Tigers started off the game trying to find their offensive-footing from beyond the arc, which was clearly not a route to success as they started off the game 0-4 from three point range and found themselves down 9-4 to the Lady Bears early.
Mizzou finished the quarter on a 12-0 run, mostly led by Notre Dame transfer Katlyn Gilbert and Smith, with the two contributing for 10 of the Tigers 16 first-half points. Gilbert had not really been able to play too much the past few seasons at Notre Dame, but when she was healthy and playing she was averaging around 14 points per game in a major conference. She showed that prowess today as she finished this tilt with nine points off the bench.
The story of the second quarter was Frank’s foul trouble, as she started the quarter off hot, knocking down a three and then a three-point play on consecutive possessions, but her third foul sent her to the bench and caused a three-minute Mizzou scoring drought to ensue. Mama Dembele ended the drought with a three-point play, kickstarting a Tiger 7-0 run to end the quarter. Head Coach Robin Pingeton’s team headed into the second half with a 31-17 lead.
After the half, the message was clear for Pingeton’s Tigers: keep pressuring the Lady Bears on the defensive end. They did just that, as their defensive prowess was engineered via a 2-3 zone defense which essentially forced the Lady Bears to rely on getting points inside the paint and from beyond the arc, two things that they were mightily struggling with throughout this matchup.
Noticeable in the third quarter was Frank and Lauren Hansen’s outright domination in the paint, as the two combined for nine of the Tigers’ 20 points in the third quarter. The quarter ended with Mizzou leading the Lady Bears 51-29 and outshooting them by 30% from the field.
A noticeable problem for both teams, however, was the lack of three-point shooting, as the Tigers shot a pitiful 1-13 (7.7%) from three-point range while Missouri State shot 4-18 (22.2%). However, unlike the Lady Bears, the Tigers compensated for those shortcomings by shooting an incredible 26-38 (68.4%) on two-pointers.
The Lady Bears woke up and scored 22 points in the fourth quarter, which was more than they scored in the entirety of the 1st half. But it was too little too late as the Tigers ended up coasting to a 68-51 victory, opening the season 1-0 against a depleted but skilled Missouri State Team.
UP NEXT: The Tigers play their home-opener against Bradley on Thursday, November 10th at 7:00 PM CST.