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Missouri Heads To Tennessee For Top-15 Matchup / LIVE GAME THREAD

After a much needed break, the Tigers travel to Knoxville to take on a struggling Lady Vols squad

Mizzou forward LaDazhia Williams (0) Mizzou Tigers vs. Ole Miss at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, MO. on Thursday, February 03, 2022.
Mikayla Schmidt/Mizzou Athletics

After a tumultuous 61-45 loss at home against Ole Miss, Missouri looks to come back in an immense way as they head to Knoxville to face the no. 13 Tennessee Lady Volunteers tonight at 5:30 pm on the SEC Network.

The Tigers are coming off after a much needed week-long break which gives them the opportunity to regroup. After starting the previous game off with what seemed like very little energy, they couldn’t muster up enough of a spark to start a comeback. The Tigers showed flashes in the third quarter, but Ole Miss wouldn’t let it get out of hand. Turnovers and an bizarre inability to shoot the three ball plagued Mizzou, and no one except for LaDazhia Williams could get anything going. It was an odd display of what the Tigers have shown throughout the season.

Tennessee is currently on a two-game losing streak after being upset by both Arkansas and Florida. The red flag between those two matchups was the Gators blowing the Lady Vols out 84-59 in Gainesville. Losing by 25 to an unranked team is not like Tennessee at all.

Against Tennessee, Missouri getting their mojo back literally everywhere on the court is crucial to success. Here are the keys to the game.

1. Find your shot ASAP.

As I indicated above, Mizzou couldn’t find the bottom of the basket when they attempted one of their few threes. As a team, the Tigers were 0-7 from beyond-the-arc. That’s the first time Mizzou hasn’t drained a three in a game since November 14, 2008, pre-Coach Pingeton era.

To top it off, none of the starters scored in double-digits. The only player who did was Williams with 24 points on a bit under 65% shooting. The next highest was Haley Troup with five. Blackwell only had two points and Hayley Frank and Lauren Hansen both had four. Again, extremely uncharacteristic of Mizzou.

Somehow, the Tigers still find themselves on the top of the SEC three-point percentage ranking with 39.3%. Maybe it’s because they only attempted seven threes so the misses wouldn’t affect their percentage as bad? I don’t really know.

What I do know is if Mizzou wants to upset the struggling Volunteers, they’ll have to get their shot rolling early and keep up the momentum.

2. Protect the ball.

I know I’ve said this multiple times in the past, but after turning the ball over a season high 21 times against Ole Miss, it’s time to bring it back.

The Rebels scored 32 points off turnovers for over half of their points. Mizzou dished lazy passes and looked flat out exhausted while executing their offense. I always try to find the positive, but when you turn the ball over and allow an extremely high amount of points off of turnovers, it’s hard to do.

Tennessee thrives in forcing turnovers with 324 on the season (although they’ve turned the ball over 403 times). Mizzou’s turned the ball over 343 times. This is all in favor of Tennessee.

It is absolutely crucial for Mizzou to stay under the 12-turnover mark and limit transition points. Protect the ball and play smart.

3. Play tough in the post against Tamari Key.

Mizzou’s height disadvantage against Tennessee is absurd. Luckily for Mizzou, the only player above 6’3 who gets significant minutes in 6’6 star center, Tamari Key. But this is actually not lucky for the Tigers.

Key is one of the best players in the SEC on defense and the boards. She is a good offensive player who’s averaging 9.9 points per game. It’s her ability to block what seems like every single shot in the paint that makes her one of the most feared defensive players in the conference. Key is averaging a conference high 3.5 blocks per game and is fifth in rebounding with 8.1 per game. Her teammate Jordan Horston is third in rebounding with 9.3.

Mizzou shouldn’t avoid driving to the paint because it gives them the chance to draw fouls against Key. However, they must be cautious with their shot selection and play smart when going up in the paint.

Having a height disadvantage isn’t the end of the world. Playing tough against Key on both ends of the court is crucial to slowing down Tennessee’s post presence.

First quarter

Starting lineup: Williams, Dembele, Troup, Blackwell and Frank.

After briefly losing the ball, Blackwell gives Mizzou the 3-2 lead from the corner.

Dembele hesitates and drives left for a layup. Game is tied at five.

Frank draws a charge. Another day at the office for her.

Coach Pingeton calls a timeout after Tennessee goes on an 8-0 run. Tigers trail 5-13.

Out of the timeout, Hansen drains a midrange jumper. Mizzou trails 8-13.

Quickly after the Tennessee miss, Mizzou runs the court and Hansen drains a three. Tigers trail 10-13.

Dembele gets the steal and misses on the other end but Blackwell cleans it up. Tigers trail 12-13.

Blackwell gets the steal off of Williams’ layup miss and draws the foul on the floor.

Hansen hits an off-balance three off the screen and Mizzou takes the 15-13 lead.

Blackwell gets the steal, turns it over and then Dorroh gets the steal and converts a layup. Tigers lead 17-15.

At the end of the first quarter, the game is tied at 17 all.

Second quarter

Extra pass by Williams to a cutting Blackwell for a layup ties the game up at 19.

Dembele loses the ball and Troup gathers it for a layup. Game is tied at 21.

Blackwell is fouled on the drive. She’ll shoot two after the media timeout. Blackwell splits her free throws. Tigers trail 22-23.

Jayla Kelly blocks Tamari Key and a jump ball follows.

After a long time without a bucket, Troup hits a step-back three that bounces around the rim. Mizzou trails 25-32.

Kelly drives right and hits a wide-open layup. Mizzou trails 27-32.

Halftime: Mizzou trails 27-32.

Third quarter

Following Tennessee’s put-back off a Jordan Horston free throw miss, Blackwell drives left and converts the layup. Mizzou trails 29-35.

Tennessee goes on an 8-2 run and forces a Mizzou timeout. Tigers trail 29-41.

Hansen snaps Tennessee’s 15-0 run with a layup. Tigers trail 31-50.

Williams gets free around Key and hits a layup. Tigers trail 33-52.

At the end of the third, Mizzou trails Tennessee 33-58.

Fourth quarter

Hansen knocks the ball away and has a clear path to the hoop for a layup. Mizzou trails 35-58.

Frank gets a defensive rebound and outlet passes to Hansen for a wide-open layup. Mizzou trails 37-61.

Dembele knocks away the ball and Hansen hits a transition three. Tigers trail 42-64.

Frank banks a three in for her first points of the evening. Tigers trail 45-65.

Higginbottom drives and misses the layup but Blackwell is there to clean it up. Mizzou trails 47-67.

Higginbottom gets the steal and protects the ball on her hip to finish the layup. Mizzou trails 51-67.

Hansen gets a three at the corner off an assist by Dorroh. She has 20 points. Tigers trail 54-74.

Hansen rips the ball away from Brooklynn Miles and gets an easy layup. Tigers trail 58-74.

Higginbottom puts on some moves and drives in for a righty scoop layup. Tigers trail 60-74.

Micah Linthacum puts on some great post moves and finishes for an and-one opportunity. She misses the free throw but Tennessee was stagnant after the miss. She goes for her rebound but slips and it’s out-of-bounds off Linthacum.

Final: Mizzou drops their second game in a row to Tennessee 62-76.