Omaha’s had a rough start to their season despite going 4-4. Their first game was a 100-36 loss against Nebraska and then went through a heartbreaking 72-74 loss at Tennessee State on November 27. Despite their struggles, they’re a team with a ton of talent, particularly in Elena Pilakouta and Florida Gulf Coast transfer Aaliyah Stanley. This matchup against Mizzou will be their second against a power five opponent and a crucial test for the Mavericks.
For Mizzou, this game comes after a week of rest. The Tigers lineup should be whole again with Jayla Kelly more than likely coming back from the ankle injury that sidelined her in Tempe. With a seemingly healthy lineup, Mizzou will need to continue the momentum that led them to their strong start on the season. Here are the keys to the game for Mizzou.
1. Force Omaha to take threes
The Mavericks play their best game down low in the paint through 6’3 center, Elena Pilakouta. She hasn’t attempted a three all season which shows how dominant she is down low. She’s currently averaging a team leading 64% from the floor and is also the leading scorer and rebounder with 14.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, respectively.
As a team, Omaha is averaging a measly 29% from three. However, they do have two players who are highly efficient from beyond the arc in Aaliyah Stanley and Kennedi Grant. Each have made ten threes on the season with Stanley averaging 34.5% and Grant averaging 41.4%.
Even with those two players taking the bulk of the three point attempts, the Mavericks aren’t strong enough on the perimeter to carry any discomfort down low. Mizzou must make sure they put pressure on Pilakouta down low to pass it out for the uncomfortable three point shot attempts.
2. Continue scoring dominance
The Tigers have been on a high impact scoring run since finding their shot from beyond the arc against Saint Louis back on November 30. Even though they only shot 23.1% from three against Arizona State, they dominated against UMass, shooting at a 46.9% clip.
Lauren Hansen’s struggles were finally forgotten in Tempe when she went on an absolute tear, averaging 23 points in both games. Hayley Frank and Haley Troup joined in on the scoring frenzy as well. Those core three helped lead the tempo and come out of Tempe unscathed.
This duo.— Mizzou Basketball (@MizzouWBB) December 5, 2022
46 combined points on Sunday
123 combined points over the last three games pic.twitter.com/0MM0hKHlJu
Here is a great positive that greatly benefits Mizzou. Omaha allows opponents to shoot 35% from beyond the arc. The Tigers are shooting 34.7% from three. This statistic will be a crucial element to the game plan when executing their perimeter offense. With the (pretty much) hot perimeter shooting streak, I’d expect Mizzou to drain over Omaha’s allowed average.
3. Sara-Rose Smith’s bench play
The most notable member of Mizzou’s bench is none other than the newly crowned double-double queen, Sara-Rose Smith. The best part about Smith’s ability to secure numerous double-doubles on the season (she’s currently at three) is she’s doing this while coming off the bench. According to Mizzou, she is one of two players in the country to record three or more double-doubles off the bench.
Mrs. double-double— Mizzou Basketball (@MizzouWBB) December 8, 2022
One of two players in the country with 3+ double-doubles off the bench this season. pic.twitter.com/PyhrFOOkoD
The emergence of Smith has been such a crucial element to the Tigers, who are quite thin in terms of bench depth and can use her spark and leadership. Whenever she comes in, she immediately is seen as a threat, especially on the boards. Smith is currently averaging 6.4 points and a team-leading 8.3 rebounds per game. No doubt the Tigers will need her to come up big today.
Mizzou welcomes Omaha to Mizzou Arena today at 11:30am. You can check out the action on SEC+, or listen to the call on KTGR and the MUTigers app.