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Missouri Faces Drake in First Round of WNIT/LIVE GAME THREAD

After an extended break, Mizzou is ready for postseason play.

Mizzou guard Aijha Blackwell (33) Mizzou Tigers SEC Tournament at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN. on Thursday, March 03, 2022.
Mikayla Schmidt/Mizzou Athletics

It’s business time. No more regular season. No more SEC tournament. It’s postseason time in CoMo! Look y’all, I know it’s not the NCAA tournament. But which would you prefer? No postseason at all or a chance at a postseason even if it’s the WNIT? I vote the latter.

After not knowing where the game would be broadcast, I checked my handy dandy ESPN app on the off chance it’d have a place to watch. Mizzou will host Drake on March 17 at 7 pm central on SECN+.

If you recall, the last time these two teams met was in the first round of the 2019 NCAA tournament where Mizzou narrowly defeated Drake 77-76 in overtime to advance to the second round.

Something that might’ve slipped your memory from that season though, was that one particular transfer — one Grace Berg — left the program in January 2019 right before Mizzou traveled to South Carolina for a matchup.

Berg’s from Iowa so transferring closer to home to play at Drake was probably the main reason. Due to transfer rules, she was unable to play in the tournament game against Mizzou. Over three years later, Berg gets the chance to face her former team on the hardwood instead of on the sidelines.

Mizzou and Drake have met each other five times previously, with Drake leading the series 2-3. Before the 2019 tournament game, they faced each other three times between 1979-1981. Obviously, basketball has changed from the 70s-80s to the 2020s. Both teams are coming into this matchup with their eyes on the prize. Here are the keys to the game for the Tigers.

1. Play team basketball.

In Coach Pingeton’s media availability, she said the team had a four day break after the SEC tournament loss. But after the break, the team came together and had some of the best practices of the season, like since November and December. And this was all before Selection Sunday. While she and the team felt they were snubbed (she didn’t use those exact words), they’re excited to play in a postseason and get the chance to host.

This is an extremely great sign. Something generally missing since the win against South Carolina in December has been the lack of team basketball. It wasn’t that they weren’t playing as a team; they definitely were. Something just seemed kind of “off” about the chemistry that didn’t allow them to execute to their true and full potential.

If the break was as beneficial as Coach P is implying and the team is improving their chemistry, then it will for sure be displayed on the court. Also, everyone except for Skylah Travis and Neci Trusty (who hasn’t dressed all season) will be fully available for the game.

2. Protect the paint.

Drake prefers to score down low rather than from beyond the arc. Mizzou’s seen that plenty of times this season in both non-con and conference play. Compared to Mizzou, they’re a bit undersized, but that won’t stop the Bulldogs from pounding the paint.

Two players to keep an eye out in the paint are Maggie Blair and Grace Berg. Both of them have attempted a combined total of 99 threes, so they’ll be living and breathing inside the paint. Berg is averaging 11.8ppg on 47.6% shooting from the field. Blair is averaging 12ppg on 52% shooting from the field.

Mizzou will need to be on their heels every single time the ball falls into those two’s hands in the paint.

3. Bring out all the energy.

One of the best aspects of this WNIT round is the fact Mizzou gets to host. Mizzou Arena is one of the most feared places to play in the country according to some former SEC women’s basketball players. Fans make this atmosphere so beyond exciting and hard for opponents.

Fan energy always seems to translate to on court energy for the players. Exhibit A: the South Carolina win. This team feeds off of each other’s energy in addition to the fans and vice versa. If the players come out refreshed, energized and ready to go, and the fans get into the game, Mizzou will cause a lot of disruption to Drake.

Also keep in mind, Mizzou is 11-4 at home while Drake is 5-6 away. Take that as you will!

UPATES

First quarter

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

Apologies for not getting this on time. I had playback errors.

Two threes were made by Blackwell and Hansen. Blackwell makes a jumper. Tigers lead 8-0.

Frank hits a midrange jumper. Tigers lead 10-0.

Troup drives and finds Frank in the corner for an awkward three off the bank. Mizzou leads 13-2.

Smith blocks Drake’s shot and Frank finds Izzy down low for a layup. Mizzou leads 15-4.

Williams receives the ball inside, puts on some fancy footwork and drains the bucket. Tigers lead 17-4.

Higginbottom drives left and finishes at the rim. Tigers lead 19-7.

At the end of the first quarter, Mizzou leads Drake 19-10.

Second quarter

Blackwell forces a steal but Mizzou can’t get anything on the other end. Tigers lead 19-16.

Blackwell is fouled on the drive and has a chance for two. She splits her free throws for Mizzou’s first point of the second quarter. Tigers lead 20-18.

Dembele drives and bounce passes to a back cutting Smith for a reverse layup. That is Mizzou’s first field goal of the second. Tigers lead 22-18.

Frank gets a steal but couldn’t capitalize. Score remains 22-18.

Blackwell hesitates and drives and is fouled at the hoop. She has a chance for two. She makes both and the Tigers retake the 24-23 lead.

Dembele finds Williams down low and puts on some more fancy footwork and makes a layup. Mizzou leads 26-23.

Halfime: Drake leads Mizzou 27-26.

Third quarter

Frank triples threats and drives left and draws a foul. She drains both of her free throws. Tigers trail 28-29.

Mizzou retakes the lead courtesy of a midrange jumper by Blackwell. Mizzou leads 30-29.

Great defense by bother Blackwell and a block by Frank. A foul is called on Drake. Score remains the same.

Drake hits a three to retake the lead but Higginbottom drains a midrange jumper off the inbound. Game is tied at 32 all.

Troup and Williams gets two amazing blocks. Game is still tied at 32.

Troup finds Williams on the pick and roll for a layup. Tigers trail 34-35.

Frank draws an offensive foul. Nothing surprising there!

Hansen receives a screen from Kelly and drives in for a layup. Mizzou trails 36-38.

High-low action from Higginbottom to Kelly who pivots and hits the layup. The game is tied at 38 all.

Kelly gets the steal and the bucket on the other end. Mizzou retakes the 40-38 lead.

At the end of the third quarter, Drake leads Mizzou 43-40.

Fourth quarter

Blackwell is left wide open and hits a three. Mizzou trails 43-45.

Troup drives left, spins and draws the foul. She makes both of her free throws. Tigers trail 45-47.

Blackwell spins and drives baseline and hits the reverse layup. Mizzou trails 47-49.

Blackwell goes one-on-one, spins and hits a layup. Tigers trail 49-52.

Troup drives left and is fouled. She splits her free throws. Tigers trail 50-52.

Blackwell hits a three from the left wing. Tigers trail 53-55.

Blackwell hits another wide-open three. Mizzou trails 56-57.

Higginbottom cuts and Frank bounce passes to her for a layup. Tigers trail 58-60.

Troup hits a wide-open three. Tigers trail 61-64.

Blackwell spins to the basket and is fouled. She splits her free throws. Tigers trail 62-66.

Higginbottom drives baseline, is cut off and finds her way on the other side for a layup. Mizzou trails 64-66.

Blackwell hits a free throw line jumper to tie the game at 66!

Blackwell misses the game winning shot and we’re going to overtime tied at 66!

Overtime

Dembele accelerates in for the layup and is fouled. She has the chance for the three point play which she converts. Tigers lead 69-68.

Higginbottom is fouled on the drive. She is fouled and has a chance for two. She splits her free throws. Mizzou leads Drake 70-69.

Frank drives, spins and is fouled. She uncharacteristically splits her free throws. Mizzou trails 71-72.

Higginbottom steps back and hits a three. Tigers trail 74-75.

Blackwell is fouled driving baseline and has a chance for two. She splits them. Mizzou trails 75-77.

Frank hits a three and Mizzou trails 78-81.

Final: Mizzou’s season is over after Drake defeats them 83-78 in the WNIT.