The Missouri Tigers (11-2) ended non-conference play with a loss to the (now) 10-2 Illinois Fighting Illini in its annual Bragging Rights game. The Illini used a hot shooting night en route to a 76-66 victory.
The Illini found themselves shooting hot early, as they converted seven of their first eight field goals, racing to an early 17-6 lead in which all five of Illinois’ starters got points. The Tigers quickly responded with a scoring run of their own as they utilized the paint often, getting a flurry of points from the likes of Sara-Rose Smith, new grad Lauren Hansen, and freshman standout Ashton Judd.
In my colleague Lauren Rosenberg’s preview, they mentioned how crucial it was for the Tigers to win the rebounding battle over a strong rebounding team like the Illini. They won that battle in the first quarter, outrebounding the Illini 9-4, and rode that to a 14-2 run to end the quarter with a 20-19 lead.
The passing in the first quarter was the main catalyst to the scoring onslaught, as the Tigers had six assists on nine made field-goals.
The Illini proved to be a handful for the Tigers to start the second quarter, as Kendall Bostic led the way on the offensive boards. Bostic overpowered Tiger defenders possession after possession, converting her put back shots.
Missouri struggled to find offense in the second quarter, so they turned to their Ms. Consistent, Hayley Frank, who tallied seven points in the quarter for the Tigers.
Turnovers were a story yet again for the Tigers, which is an issue head coach Robin Pingeton has stressed in the past. However, Coach Pingeton’s team couldn’t shake off their turnover woes early in this one, racking up 12 in the first half which gave the Illini 19 points off of them.
Illinois rode their hot shooting performance to a commanding 40-33 lead at halftime, as they were led by Bostic and Adalia McKenzie with eight and 10 points, respectively. On the other hand, the Tigers were led by Frank with nine points as Judd complemented her nicely with eight. The Illini outrebounded the Tigers 7-3 in the second quarter, while the team in yellow and gold held the outright lead in the category, 12-11.
McKenzie and Frank traded blows to begin the second half, as the two of them combined for the first eleven points of the half. Despite Frank’s hot start to the half the Illini maintained a healthy lead as the Tigers attempted to take back the lead after not having it since the end of the first quarter.
McKenzie continued to stay hot throughout the quarter as the Tigers could not find an answer for her. She shot 9-14 and tallied 21 points through three quarters. The Illini found themselves with a 61-48 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Genesis Bryant also excelled beyond the arc for the Illini, shooting 3-4 from three as she had 15 points heading into the final 10.
The Illini’s ability to adjust from the first quarter after allowing a plethora of points to come from the inside was a key factor in this game, as the Tigers seemingly found themselves stuck on the perimeter for the majority of the game.
Illinois shot a superb 31-56 from the field in the game while the Tigers shot 25-55 but the defining stat in this one was the Illini’s 28 points off of turnovers to the Tigers 12.
Lauren Hansen and Hayley Frank again led the way for the Tigers as the duo combined for 35 points while Sara-Rose Smith added on 15 points of her own. The crucial rebounding battle was lost by the Tigers, as the Illini outrebounded them 31-27.
With the loss, the Illini move to 10-6 all-time against the Tigers after Coach Pingeton boasted a 3-1 record in her last four matchups against the Illini.
UP NEXT: The Tigers take on the Kentucky Wildcats on Thursday, December 29th at 8 PM CST.