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Missouri Drops Regular Season Home Finale to Kentucky

The shorthanded Tigers just couldn’t get it done.

Mizzou guard Izzy Higginbottom (30) & Mizzou guard Haley Troup (13) Mizzou Tigers vs. Mississippi State at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, MS. on Thursday, January 27, 2022.
Mikayla Schmidt/Mizzou Athletics

Last night, the Missouri Tigers dropped a crucial game to the Kentucky Wildcats at their home finale by a score of 78-63. Right before tipoff, we learned that Mizzou would be without four players. Star player Aijha Blackwell, key bench player Kiya Dorroh and Skylah Travis were forced to sit out due to a violation of team standards. LaDazhia Williams was also included in that list but unlike the other three, she sat on the bench instead of behind. From an updated story on Mizzou’s loss from Max Baker of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, we learned the former three players were found to be in possession of marijuana by MUPD while on campus. The reasoning behind Williams is still unknown.

I’m not here to give my opinion on weed and the NCAA’s standards and rules concerning it. It’s a banned substance and illegal in CoMo unless you have a medical marijuana card. I’m not here to judge. These women are grown adults and are fully capable of making their own decisions. Bad ones happen. It’s a fact of life. Basically, I believe in all 14 of these women and their ability to grow and learn from their mistakes. I believe Coach P made the right decision even if it cost the team the game. Holding players accountable and showing there are consequences for your actions is more important to me then winning games even it could inevitably cost them the tournament. (That was painful to say.) I have similar opinions to Karen so if you read her links for today, you’ll see exactly that.

This is something I felt the absolute need to address. It’s a hard topic to write about but I felt it was necessary to voice in an article about the game. With that all being said, here are the takeaways to yesterday’s loss to the Wildcats.

1. The three-point shooting was phenomenal.

I wrote in my preview that it was so crucial Mizzou for Mizzou to launch the three whenever they got open looks. The team did exactly that and it was so refreshing to see. I wrote that Kentucky only allowed 34% of threes made in a game and the Tigers exposed that weakness. Mizzou shot 42%(!!) from beyond the arc. Kentucky’s perimeter defense when it came to guarding the three was exposed. Mizzou shot beyond lights out, which helped bring them back from an abysmal 25-8 deficit before Coach P called a timeout, and the Tigers headed into the second trailing 28-19.

Mizzou hit three more threes in the second quarter courtesy of Hayley Frank and Haley Troup. Troup decided to join the three point party with Frank and Izzy Higginbottom, and it looked so good. Mizzou outscored Kentucky 23-18 courtesy of the aforementioned threes and some great layups from Jayla Kelly (more on her later). They headed into the locker room with only a four point deficit, down 46-42.

The third quarter was when the Tigers started to cool down from three. Lauren Hansen dropped the only two threes for Mizzou but did outscore Kentucky 14-11 to bring the deficit to one, 57-56, heading into the fourth. Jumpers and layups were the main reason for the flow of offensive scoring.

Also, Hansen drained her 60th three in third quarter to set a new record in program history. For the first time ever, two Mizzou teammates hit 60+ threes in a season. She and Hayley Frank continue to etch themselves in the history books. What a great early birthday present for Lauren!

2. We don’t talk about Bruno...oops I mean the fourth quarter.

So in Encanto, the hit song that everyone is absolutely enamored with, including myself, is We Don’t Talk About Bruno. For those who haven’t seen Encanto, they literally talk about Bruno throughout the entire song.

I guess that means we have to talk about the fourth quarter. I do not blame any player or Coach P for that mess of a fourth. The Tigers entered that quarter again with a one point deficit and a ton of momentum. I can honestly say I hadn’t felt this nervous about a game since the South Carolina one.

I did have a ton of hope because Mizzou defeated the Gamecocks shorthanded and they came back in this game in an identical scenario. Of course, it was with different players not available, but still.

The Tigers ended up being absolutely gassed and who’s to blame them for that. Not Coach P or the players on the court. You can only do so much when facing an athletic team like Kentucky. The Wildcats took complete advantage of the Tigers’ tired legs and outscored them 21-7 to solidify the win.

3. Jayla Kelly, everyone!

Coach Pingeton stated multiple time that Jayla’s been busting her tail off in practice and it’s shown during the latter part of SEC play. Due to both Blackwell and Williams not available, it was truly time for Kelly to absolutely shine in her first ever collegiate start.

Remember when Jayla had her career high in points two games ago against Georgia? Well, she reset her career high with 11 points after making a free throw. She was a true catalyst in the first quarter. She was scored eight of the Mizzou’s 19 points in the first and dished out an assist as well. I had a gut wrenching feeling that she was going to smash her points record.

While Kelly didn’t smash it like I anticipated, She reset her career high against a dark horse team like Kentucky. Jayla deserves so much recognition for her play last night. Despite being in foul trouble, like Frank, for majority of the game, she produced in her 16 minutes on the court.

Top performers

Jayla Kelly: 11 points and four rebounds.

Hayley Frank: 16 points and five rebounds on 55% shooting from the field and 80% from three.

Haley Troup: Nine points, five rebounds and four assists.

Next up, Mizzou wraps up the regular season in Gainesville against No. 15 Florida on Sunday, February 27 at 11 am on SECN.