Last night, the Missouri Tigers fell apart against the No. 21 Georgia Bulldogs, dropping their fourth game in a row, 74-49. A key component to the loss was the absence of Aijha Blackwell, who didn’t make the trip due to a violation of team rules. It is important to note this isn’t the first time she has violated team rules this season. Flash back to the matchup against Auburn on January 6 when Coach Pingeton opted to start LaDazhia Williams instead of Blackwell for the same reason.
Not having Blackwell proved detrimental for Mizzou. In their first matchup against Georgia, she posted a season high 27 points, one off her career high, and 13 rebounds for a double-double. Her absence greatly affected the Tigers, especially on the boards. When your leading rebounder and one of your star players is out for a crucial game, it’s hard to make up for it.
I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of the game here but you can check out the live game thread for more details on the game. Here are the takeaways from the Tigers’ grueling loss over the Bulldogs.
1. Defense continues to disappear.
The lack of defense has been the trend during the four game skid. Like I said above, not having Blackwell available didn’t help Mizzou’s case. The next person up mentality also, once again, ceased to exist.
Mizzou lost ability to stop Georgia from scoring in transition and boxing out. The Bulldogs scored 16 points off turnovers and six on the break. The Tigers allowed 18 second chance points due to not boxing out on defense. Mizzou allowed Georgia players to swoop in for the easy put-back. They had trouble staying with their player. Aside from the second chance points, Mizzou allowed 14 offensive rebounds. When you’re facing a team as athletic as Georgia, you must box out everyone even if the player is chilling on the perimeter. Unfortunately, Mizzou failed to do just that.
2. Scoring existed until the fourth quarter.
Georgia outscored Mizzou every single quarter to practically no one’s surprise. With the lackluster defense the Tigers played, it was practically a given. But don’t let that stop you from at least acknowledging that Mizzou played pretty tough on offense until the fourth quarter. See the picture below for the quarter-by-quarter scoring.
Let’s skip over to the fourth quarter, shall we? Y’all, I really don’t have a true explanation for what happened, aside from Georgia playing some stellar defense. Even when Mizzou got the open shot, the ball didn’t find the bottom of the basket. It happens and it sucks. Georgia shut down Hayley Frank offensively in the fourth before Coach P cleared out her bench to give them some minutes. We all know how hard it is to shut Frank down, so that’s a true testament to how outstanding Georgia’s defense is. In fact, none of the starters scored in that fourth quarter.
The scoring came from Izzy Higginbottom, Kiya Dorroh, Micah Linthacum and Jayla Kelly. I’ll go into more details about Kelly in the next takeaway. I’ve said this before, but giving the deep bench players minutes is so crucial to development. Every single player available for Mizzou touched the floor. The fourth quarter scoring collapse wasn’t on the bench players. The starters played a good amount of minutes there. Nothing went in and that’s that.
3. Hayley Frank and Jayla Kelly made history.
Oh do I love when Mizzou players make history even in losses. It’s a heartwarming feeling to know that even during a rough patch, something good can happen.
Frank etched herself into the history books on a free throw. She became the 39th Tiger to hit the 1,000 career point mark. She hit 999 points on a three to break Georgia’s 8-0 run at the beginning of the game. Not too long after, Frank drove to the basket and was fouled and got the opportunity for two. Her first free throw solidified her 1,000 points, and of course she hit the second one as well.
The bench was roaring and you could see Haley Troup clapping in the background when she came up after talking with Coach P during the free throws. Watch the special moment below.
Frank finished with 10 points in her historic night.
Next up is Jayla Kelly. With the absence of Blackwell, Kelly’s name was called. The St. Louis native’s increased minutes were the chance to show off her skills, and did she ever. She was the true sole bright spot for the Tigers and did not cease to impress us in her career-high 20 minutes.
Kelly played the best game of her entire career. She stuffed Georgia with two giant blocks, which caused the bench to lose their minds. I’ll admit, I even lost my mind watching those blocks, as well as her time on the floor in general. Kelly stepped up big time to fill the huge shoes left by the absence of Blackwell. Of course, that’s an extremely hard feat, especially when your minutes off the bench rarely hit double digits. The last time Kelly had double digit minutes this season was against SIUE on December 2, 2021, and she logged 11.
Kelly finished with career highs in practically every single statistical category. She logged a career high in points (10), made field goals (5), and attempted shots. She shot 5-9, or a bit under 56% from the field, and had career highs in rebounds (5), blocks (2) and steals (3).
Here are her season high statistics as of February 18.
Even in the dark moments, there are a few shining stars. Frank and Kelly were the two for Mizzou.
Next up, Mizzou returns home to face Mississippi State on Sunday, February 20 at 2 pm on SECN+. To keep from getting too precariously close to the NCAA Tournament bubble, they really need a win.