After a stellar non-conference slate found Mizzou Women’s Hoops boasting a 11-2 record, the Tigers kick off conference play against the Kentucky Wildcats at Mizzou Arena. The Wildcats are coming off an 8-4 non-conference slate where they struggled against some great teams like Virginia Tech.
Like Mizzou, Kentucky lost a lot of crucial players in the transfer portal, one of them being Dre’una Edwards, who transferred to Baylor. You may remember her from her emotional interview after draining the game winning shot in the SEC championship against South Carolina.
In total, Kentucky lost six to the portal with four going to power five schools like Baylor, Arizona State, Syracuse and Florida State. They brought in two stars in Ajae Petty from LSU and Maddie Scherr from Oregon. Both have played key parts in the Wildcats’ rotation that will be hard to contain.
Here are my keys to the game.
1. Prioritize three point shooting
What better way to start draining threes than against an opponent that gives up 30.5% of three point shot attempts? We all know Mizzou’s strength lies beyond-the-arc as they live and die behind that curved line. Hayley Frank is leading the team in three point shooting percentage with 41.9% while Lauren Hansen follows behind with 35.3%.
As a team, the Tigers are averaging 35.7% from three. Kentucky’s faced a lot of great opponents who can shoot the three well but there’s something about Mizzou shooting threes at home that makes it hard to defend. Mizzou wants to solidify their three point shooting prowess again as they’ve done in years past. Their scoring priority should be from beyond-the-arc but they also can’t forget to pound it inside too.
2. Contain Robyn Benton
This is the Robyn Benton season, and here’s why. Benton was not a starter when she transferred in from Auburn back in the Covid shortened 2020-2021 season. She was a crucial bench piece until this season. With Rhyne Howard leaving for the WNBA and Edwards leaving for Baylor, Benton found herself in prime position to show off her skills. To say she’s done so is an understatement.
After averaging a mere 7.7 points per game in her two seasons at Kentucky, she’s more than doubled her scoring numbers (excluding her Auburn stats) with 16.1 points per game. Her strength is inside the arc, shooting at a 42.2% clip, but when she wants to, she can throw up and convert a few threes here and there. A lot of her shots come off the hands of assists leader Scherr, who is averaging 5.5 per game.
Containing Benton will take an army but is not impossible by any means.
3. Control the ball
We are all very much aware that Mizzou’s achilles heel is ball handling and turnovers. They’re currently averaging 15.2 turnovers per game. On the other side, Kentucky’s forcing 22.7 per game. That is a frightening statistic for any team, but especially the Tigers.
Regardless, Kentucky sees the passing lane so well as they’re averaging 10.5 steals per game. A lot of Mizzou’s turnovers do come off bad passes, which is not going to suffice against a defensive minded team like Kentucky. Jade Walker is leading the Wildcats in steals with 2.8 steals per game. Whenever she’s on the floor, the Tiger guards need to be careful and wary of where their passes are going.
Mizzou takes on Kentucky tonight at 8 pm CST on SECN. You can listen to the radio call on KTGR and the MUTigers app.