After a week-long break, with fans hopeful Mizzou could get over their previous loss to Ole Miss, the Tigers travelled to Knoxville to face the struggling No. 13 Tennessee Lady Volunteers. To fans’ dismay, Tennessee defeated Mizzou by a score of 76-62.
Coach Pingeton switched up the starting lineup, inserting LaDazhia Williams in favor of Lauren Hansen. Williams is the prominent post player for the Tigers, so the move made sense. Mizzou was undersized and guarding Lady Vols 6’6 center Tamari Key meant the Tigers needed height from the start.
To Mizzou’s credit, it worked out in the first and second quarters. Neither team could get anything rolling on offense due to both defenses playing well. Unfortunately, Williams was plagued with foul trouble and say out the majority of the second quarter.
The second half was a whole different story. For a live version of the second half (and the whole game), check out my live game thread.
Missouri kept the game close and then let it get away, resulting in the loss. Here are my takeaways from last night’s game.
1. Mizzou shut down Tamari Key.
I wrote in my keys to the game how important it was for Mizzou to limit Tamari Key at all costs. Y’all, they did just that and it was incredible. It was truly one of the best defensive performances I’ve seen from Mizzou on a towering post player all season. (If you disagree, please write your take in the comments section. I’d love to see them!)
Despite the size mismatch and Williams going to the bench due to early foul trouble, Mizzou limited Key to five points and four rebounds on 2-5, or 40%, shooting and a stellar 8.8 usage percentage. Only allowing Key to attempt five shots and limit her touches did help Mizzou in a small way.
2. The third quarter.
Y’all, I have a lot to say about that third quarter, but I’ll limit myself. It was abysmal. Mizzou came out of the half with a five point deficit, down 32-37, and had some momentum.
Unfortunately, the Tigers were absolutely dismantled in the third quarter. It looked as though they had zero energy. Shots weren’t going down. Tennessee ran them off the court in transition. Defense practically didn’t exist. Nothing made sense. This was truly reminiscent of recent struggles to get on the board. I was hopeful they’d rile up the energy to get something going but they were depleted and defeated.
This quarter was probably the reason why they lost the game. They were outscored 26-6. Yes, you read that right. It wasn’t that they weren’t getting any open or good looks, though. They definitely were and they took them. Sometimes the ball doesn’t find the net, but their defense and lack of speed was the deciding factor and trend of the horrific third quarter.
This particular third quarter is the one to forget for fans and the one the team needs to learn from.
3. The youngins got valuable time.
This one will be quick. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how valuable the minutes for the underclassmen were in this game.
The benefit to these types of deficits or leads, depending on how Mizzou is doing, is the ability to utilize the bench. It’s so important to give minutes to underclassmen in these games. The development and learning experiences from getting on the court to showcase their skills is crucial. These players are the future of the team. Utilizing them, no matter if it’s a blow out, brings excitement to fans and the team as a whole.
Kiya Dorroh displayed her defense in her 15 minutes on the court with two steals, one of them supporting Aijha Blackwell after a strange and entertaining sequence of events led to her hitting an immediate layup.
Izzy Higginbottom drained half of her shots for six points with 15 minutes on the court. Her highlight play was a hip tuck drive to the basket that I wish I had a video of.
4. Lauren Hansen equals the spark off the bench.
Like I mentioned before, Williams started in favor of Hansen for height purposes. Everyone knew Hansen would still get her regular starting minutes, so that wasn’t a cause for concern.
In fact, nothing about her play sparked any red flags. She was the absolute bright spot of this Mizzou team. In 31 minutes off the bench, Hansen recorded 22 points, two steals and a block. Her shooting was phenomenal. She shot 9-15 or 60% from the floor and drained 4-6 or a bit under 67% of her three pointers. As usual, she was a dagger from the corner. Hansen helped guide a fourth quarter comeback with Mizzou outscoring Tennessee 29-18. Of course it was too little too late, but her display on the court gave Mizzou hope.
Honorable mention: Blackwell is back on the double-double train recording her 18th on the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds on 50% shooting.
Next up, Mizzou returns home to face Arkansas on Sunday, February 13 at 2 pm on SECN+.