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Mizzou Closes Regular Season In Style With Win Over Florida

The shorthanded Tigers got the much needed dub.

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In a matchup where the stakes were beyond high, the Missouri Tigers travelled to Gainesville and upset the No. 15 (now No. 23) Florida Gators ,78-73. Despite not having Aijha Blackwell, Kiya Dorroh and Skylah Travis, Mizzou was able to hold off any comeback attempt from Florida.

I’m going to be completely honest here. I did have Mizzou going 2-1 to finish out the regular season, which they did achieve. In the Rock M Nation slack channel, I predicted they’d beat Mississippi State and Florida and lose to Kentucky, which was dependent on if Blackwell was back. This was before the suspensions of the aforementioned three players. Even though she wasn’t back, the Tigers were able to pull it off. Having LaDazhia Williams back was huge for Mizzou.

Everyone played their role so well that it seemed like the only thing that would stop them would be themselves. For more details on the nitty-gritty of the game, check out the live game thread. Here are the takeaways from yesterday’s win over Florida.

1. The comeback kids came to life.

Remember when Mizzou was down against South Carolina and then forced overtime to eventually beat them? For the record, that was the last ranked win for Mizzou until yesterday but I’m sure y’all already knew that. Stay with me here. This is going to be a long one.

So how exactly did it happen? It started in the first quarter. Both teams played excellent defense. It took until 8:26 mark for someone to get on the board, which turned out to be Florida. Troup hit a free throw to get Mizzou on the board and the offense started to roll.

A few jumpers and floaters, and some threes from Hansen and Troup helped keep the Tigers extremely close, only trailing 12-10.

In the second quarter, so much happened so quickly it was hard to keep track of. Florida went on an 8-0 run forcing Coach Pingeton to call a timeout. After that, something clicked in the Tigers’ offense and they ended up going on an 11-0 run to take a 21-20 lead. Yes, you read that right. Mizzou ended the first half on an 11-2 run. A Florida FG snapped the initial 11-0 run courtesy of Hayley Frank who actually scored her first field goal in this quarter. More on her later. The Tigers outscored Florida 19-10 and went into the break up 29-22.

Additionally, Lauren Hansen had this highlight play for the last points in the quarter.

It wouldn’t be fair to say the third quarter was pretty, because it wasn’t. Mizzou’s been decent this season in not beating themselves up in the third, but of course it’s happened before. Florida sparked their own comeback early on in the quarter which definitely put a scare in Tiger fans. Florida scored off of an absolute explosion from Jordyn Merritt and played incredible defense, but still the Tigers found a way to continue playing stellar offense and not give up the lead. Mizzou outscored Florida 24-23 in the third.

The fourth quarter was truly where Florida’s comeback came to fruition. Similar to the first, it took a while for either team’s offense to heat up. Frank hit a three pointer for the first points of the fourth. At one point, Mizzou held a 65-51 lead. It seemed like the Tigers had the game in the bag as long as their defense could hold up. Kiki Smith decided the fourth was a great time to heat up and torch Mizzou’s defense. I don’t know what got into her, but she truly was the player helping out Merritt. The duo accounted for all 28 of Florida’s fourth quarter points. You can give credit to Mizzou for their remarkable ability to hang on and ultimately get the win, but most importantly, you must thank their work at the charity stripe because without Mama Dembele and Izzy Higginbottom’s makes from the line, this final score would definitely be different.

2. In this house, we love double digit scoring.

Brandon Haynes from the Maneater and I were talking after last game where Hansen joined Frank as the first teammates in Mizzou’s history to hit 60+ three pointers in the season. He came up with “the Splash Sisters” and I couldn’t support any harder. As a diehard Warriors fan, pre-Steph Curry days when Monte Ellis was my guy, I couldn’t think of a better comparison for their shooting prominence than Curry and Klay Thompson. No one can look us in the eye and say that’s not an accurate analogy. Seriously, no one can.

While Hansen only drained one three this game, she did finish with 12 points, and her splash sister Hayley Frank splashed a ton of threes. And by a ton, I mean 15 of her 26 points were from beyond the arc. She shot 5-6 (83%) from three. She also finished with a season high 10 rebounds for her second career double-double.

Frank was an absolute beast against Florida. Despite fouling out in the fourth quarter, she gave the team energy from the bench and hyped up them up like she was on the floor. Mizzou clearly missed her in the last few minutes when Florida went on their comeback run, and her impact on this game showed leadership, especially in the absence of Blackwell. She hit five crucial points from the stripe for 100% shooting. Without her getting going in the second quarter, I really don’t know where this game would’ve gone.

Let’s not forget the other two players who hit the double-digit mark. Mama Dembele scored 13 points, with 9 coming from the charity stripe. If we flash back for a quick second, Dembele’s previous season high in free throws made was 3 (against Troy, Arkansas and Texas A&M). In her freshman season, her then career high in free throws made was against Florida (3). Basically, she never surpassed that market free until she was clutch and drained 90% from the line on Sunday.

When you’re down players, your bench must show up. Higginbottom is primarily the sixth woman off the bench so her 25 minutes of play time isn’t that much of a shock. Coach P stated in the press conference how valuable Izzy is to this team. She’s been hindered with Covid protocols and injuries, but that didn’t stop Coach P from raving about her. She showed Sunday how great she is. She scored 15 points and was 100% from the line, draining 8 FT which came in crunch time in the fourth quarter. If that doesn’t show her ability to change the game, I don’t know what does.

Top players:

Lauren Hansen: 12 points, five rebounds and three assists.

Mama Dembele: 13 points and three assists.

Izzy Higginbottom: 15 points, three assists and eight free throws for 100% from the stripe.

Hayley Frank: 26 points and 10 points on 73% shooting from the field, 83% from three and 100% from the stripe.

Next up, Mizzou travels to Nashville for the SEC tournament. They hold the No. 9 seed and will face No. 8 Arkansas in the second round on Thursday, March 3 at 12 pm on SECN. Full bracket below.