Mizzou’s 2021-2022 season came to a close in an 83-78 loss in overtime to the Drake Bulldogs in the first round of the WNIT. After starting the game on a 10-0 run, Mizzou couldn’t get their grip back on the Bulldogs. A flip switched and Mizzou couldn’t recover.
The Tigers were an ice cold 36% from three and 68.4% from the charity stripe. They allowed Drake to light it up from three, converting 38.2%. Paint defense was good until they allowed for wide-open or lightly contested layups.
You can’t look at this game just by the box score, however. The screen or a radio broadcast can and will give you a better description of how this game went. The refs swallowed their whistles on so many Mizzou drives. A ref allowed Drake to call a time out when Grace Berg didn’t have possession of the ball. This game was just completely out of whack on all ends. With that, let’s get to the takeaways.
1. When one of the main shooters was off, a certain 5’7 guard took the reigns.
Izzy Higginbottom absolutely popped off for Mizzou. The freshman displayed all the confidence in the world in her shot. Instead of launching threes, she looked for the midrange and drives. In my opinion, this was her by far best game.
She shot a bit under 67% from the field (6-9) and hit only one three out of her two attempted. Yes, you read that right. One of her threes was a clutch one in overtime that brought Mizzou within one.
What I think the best part of Izzy’s performance tonight was it showed she’s not afraid to drive or pull up from the midrange. Normally, you’d expect a 5’7 player to stay mainly on the perimeter and sprinkle in a few drives here and there. Higginbottom showed there’s a whole other side of her skill set that was just waiting to make its debut. She finished with 14 points and three rebounds.
2. This team has grit.
Here’s the thing, y’all. If Mizzou didn’t have grit, this game would not have gone to overtime. The Tigers could’ve just given up when they were down bad, but they didn’t and forced free basketball.
The Tigers fought tooth and nail in this game even if it didn’t look like it. How do you go from being down to fighting your way back up? With grit and a determination to not give up. Unfortunately, it didn’t last into overtime, but you can’t deny they have it.
3. Aijha Blackwell didn’t miss a beat.
Blackwell got another double-double with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Her 27 points tied her season high and the double-double was her 20th. She played 34 minutes in this contest, compared to the 11 at the SEC Tournament. At the end of the fourth quarter during a huge defensive sequence, she forced a deflection out of bounds and was so hyped. She displayed all the energy and even high-fived fans sitting court side.
Defenses laid off Blackwell on the perimeter and she made them pay. She knocked down a career-tying four three pointers. Even if Aijha doesn’t take the most threes in the world, you can’t leave her wide open or she’ll make you pay.
Aijha was also a menace on defense like usual. Aside from her 10 rebounds, she had a block and three steals. If only the pass deflections showed up on the stat sheet, because there were a lot. Blackwell showed out for Mizzou and fans should continue supporting her. Without AB, Mizzou wouldn’t have had their best season since 2018-19.
For everyone who followed along with my coverage this season, I give my sincerest thanks and gratitude. It’s been an incredible experience and an absolute honor to cover my favorite sport for my favorite school to all of y’all.