Welcome to one of the most exciting weeks in basketball! The SEC conference tournament is in full swing with the first round complete. Vanderbilt and Alabama defeated their opponents and thus move onto the second round. But you’re not here for that; you’re here for the matchup between No. 8 Arkansas and No. 9 Missouri today at 12pm on SECN.
Mizzou and Arkansas have faced off twice this season, both resulting in losses for the Tigers. The first matchup in January was a 83-73 loss, while the second matchup in February was a 88-71 loss. Those two matchups came at way different times for Missouri.
In the first matchup, LaDazhia Williams played only 11 minutes before leaving the game with an injury. Somehow, they were able to keep the game manageable but couldn’t come up with the win. In the second contest, Mizzou was in the midst of what became a four-game losing streak. They played super well in the first half but disappeared in the second half.
Dwelling on the past is not an option. Postseason basketball is a different beast where you never know what is going to happen. Arkansas beat Mizzou twice this season, but this is March. It’s a whole new ballgame.
Here are the keys to the matchup between Mizzou and Arkansas.
1. Limit turnovers.
A consistent problem this season has been turnovers. A lot of times it hasn’t really been an issue because Mizzou somehow came out of the games victorious. The difference in this matchup in particular is how good Arkansas is at forcing turnovers.
On the season, the Razorbacks have forced 15.5 turnovers per game. Out of those 15.5, 7.4 of them come from steals. That’s not the shiniest number in the world, but when facing a team like Mizzou who turns the ball over around 14.8 times per game, it’s an extreme benefit for Arkansas that the Tigers will have to overcome.
Let’s flash back to the two games these teams already played. The Tigers turned the ball over 13 times in the first matchup, with six coming from steals. Really, that’s not bad, especially considering Mizzou only lost by ten. But, when you look at how many points Arkansas got off those TO, that’s an issue. The Hogs got 13 points that game off of Missouri mistakes.
In the second game, the Tigers turned it over 14 times, with seven being from steals. Again, it’s not something to hang your head over… until you look at how many points they got off of the Tigers’ miscues. In game two, it was 12.
Preventing those points could’ve easily helped Mizzou either stay in the game or secure the win. Limiting turnovers and protecting the ball is absolutely crucial, especially with an Arkansas team that is fast in transition.
2. Force turnovers.
On the other side, Mizzou absolutely must force Arkansas to turn the ball over. This is probably the toughest ask for the Tigers. Not because their perimeter defense isn’t good, though, because it is. It’s because Arkansas sits last in the SEC with only 11.2 turnovers per game (325 total).
All season long, Arkansas has prided themselves on ball handling and making smart passes. For example, in the first game against Mizzou, Arkansas turned the ball over a season low two times. Yes, you read that right. TWO. Mizzou, however, is tied for last with Texas A&M in total steals with 165 and last in steals per game with 5.7. They’ve only forced 12.7 turnovers per game, which is towards the bottom of the SEC.
This isn’t to say Mizzou isn’t capable of forcing Arkansas turnovers. In the second game, they forced 13. Their defense played tough that day and they were able to figure out a way to disrupt Arkansas’ offensive flow despite losing by 15. The Tigers absolutely need to pressure the ball and force the Razorbacks into uncomfortable situations that will more than likely result in some turnovers and maybe, just maybe, some points off their turnovers will occur.
3. Shoot the three.
Mizzou remains comfortably at the top in three-point percentage with 38.9% despite the brief moment to A&M. Mizzou also has an individual player atop the SEC ranks in three point field goal percentage— Hayley Frank. Frank is converting 47.5% of her threes. Lauren Hansen, the other half of the “Splash Sisters,” is eighth in the SEC with 39.1%.
The duo has really come to life towards the latter part of the season. Obviously, the Tigers are going to shoot the three like there is absolutely no tomorrow as long as they get the open looks.
Offensive execution will determine whether or not Mizzou gets their good looks. A good look for Frank is practically every single time she gets the ball on the perimeter. We’ve seen her hit logo threes, deep threes, corner threes and basically every single three possible within the half court line. Same goes with Hansen. Lately their success from three has come off of trailers in transition, pick and pops and back screens. If any of the shooters can get open and if they can keep their confidence from beyond-the-arc, their offense will lead the way to the quarterfinals.
Starting lineup: Williams, Dembele, Troup, Hansen and Frank.
Blackwell is back but will be coming off the bench.
Mizzou wins the opening tip but Hansen is called for the travel.
Hansen is fouled on the jump shot and has a chance for two. She drains both of them. Tigers trail 2-3.
Troup drives right and bounce passes to Williams who pump fakes and drains a layup. Tigers lead 4-3.
Troup steps back and hits a three off a screen from Kelly. Tigers lead 7-6.
Troup hits another three off a pass from Williams. Mizzou leads 10-8.
At the end of the first, Mizzou leads Arkansas 10-8.
Goforth falls down and Frank finds Williams in the wide open lane for a layup. Tigers lead 12-8.
Dembele posts up, shakes her defender, spins and hits a layup. Mizzou leads 14-10.
Williams pumps and hots a floater for a bucket. Mizzou leads 16-10.
Frank catches and shoots and drains a three. Mizzou leads 19-10.
Frank avoids the triple team and finds a wide open cutting Williams for the layup. Mizzou leaves 21-15.
Blackwell steps back and swishes in a midrange jumper. Mizzou leads 23-17.
Halftime: Mizzou leads Arkansas 23-17.
Troup steps back and hits a long two. Mizzou leads 25-20.
Before the media timeout, Blackwell was fouled and Mizzou heads to the bonus. She splits her free throws. Tigers lead 26-24.
Blackwell battles on the offensive boards and gets the put back. Mizzou leads 28-24.
Troup finds a cutting Frank and she drains the layup. Mizzou leads 30-26.
Frank draws her second charge of the quarter.
Troup hits a layup off the inbound play. Tigers lead 32-26.
Williams and Frank gets two blocks in a row. Game tied at 32.
At the end of the third quarter, Mizzou and Arkansas are tied at 32.
Hansen dribbles left and hits a three for the first points of the fourth. Mizzou leads 35-32.
Williams drains a midrange layup. She has 10 points and nine rebounds. Mizzou leads 37-34.
Troup finds an open lane and hits the layup. The game is tied at 39.
Troup drives and is fouled. This is Arkansas’ first foul of the fourth. She drains both. The game is tied at 41.
Troup hits another three and it’s a two point game. Tigers trail 44-46.
Williams is fouled on a layup attempt. She has a chance for two. She drains both and the game is tied at 46.
Williams blocks Ramirez from behind. Timeout called with 28 seconds left by Arkansas. Game remains tied at 46.
Ramirez hits a heavily contested shot and gives Arkansas a 48-46 lead. Coach P calls a timeout with 25.5 seconds left.
Troup hits a layup and ties the game up at 48!
OVERTIME! Ramirez misses her shot and we’re heading to overtime!
Mizzou gets the first points of overtime after Troup breaks her defender’s ankles and hits a jumper. Mizzou leads 50-48. She has a career high 21 points.
After Spencer’s shot goes in, she and Hansen are slapped with a double technical. Spencer misses her and-one free throw. Game is knotted up at 50.
Troup finds Williams in the wide open lane on a bounce pass. Mizzou trails 52-57.
Final: Arkansas defeats Mizzou 61-52 in overtime.