Happy New Year, Tiger fans. What better way to kick off 2023 than with some Mizzou women’s basketball? The Tigers (12-2, 1-0) head down to Auburn to take on the other Tigers (10-3, 0-1) in a midday triple header.
Auburn is a well-improved team coming off a 9-3 non-conference season. A tight 74-73 over Colorado State was their most prominent win. The Tigers were blown out by Ole Miss to start off conference play, 47-79. Honesty Scott-Grayson (15.8 points per game) was out due to injury, which put a damper on Auburn’s scoring.
When it comes to my absolute favorite thing on Earth (sarcasm), the NET rankings, Mizzou ranks 47 while Auburn is at 67. But when you look at my actual favorite thing on Earth, RPI rankings, Mizzou sits at 45 while Auburn is at 108. No matter which one you look at, Mizzou has the leg up.
As basketball fans, we all know stranger things have happened and rankings don’t necessarily mean wins. Here are the keys for Mizzou against Auburn.
1. Win the rebounding battle
Believe it not, Mizzou actually holds an advantage on the boards against Auburn. Yes, you read that right. As a team with not a lot of height, Mizzou is averaging 37 rebounds per game while Auburn is averaging 39.5. But the difference here is Mizzou is only allowing opponents to grab 31.3 while Auburn’s permitting an average of 38.2. Looking at those two stats, the advantage goes to Mizzou.
Mizzou’s improved in rebounding by committee as of late. Against Kentucky, they grabbed 41 rebounds with Sara-Rose Smith leading the way with seven, while Hayley Frank and Lauren Hansen grabbed six apiece. Everyone is boxing out on defense and Smith’s been doing her thing grabbing the offensive boards.
Mizzou is going to need all of that and more against Auburn. If there is any game to get 40+ rebounds again, it’s this one. The beginning of conference season is when you want to assert yourself in a stat that is lacking. Rebounding is one of those, and this game will showcase what they’re made of.
2. Three point shooting
This key is pretty vague, but hear me out. We already know Mizzou is a phenomenal three point shooting team. They’re averaging 36% from beyond the arc and converted 41.2% of their attempts against Kentucky. But Auburn is another breed when it comes to three point shooting on both ends.
Auburn churns out threes just as well as Mizzou does, albeit one player is their anchor. Their 0% against Ole Miss is an exception because they were without about the leading three point shooter, the aforementioned Scott-Grayson, who’s averaging an eye popping 49% from beyond the arc. I am assuming we will see her back in the lineup this afternoon, of course. Sydney Shaw is her three point tag team partner, and is averaging 38.9% from three. As a team, Auburn is shooting 36.4% from three.
Auburn has only allowed opponents to convert 28.5% of their three point attempts. Granted, they haven’t really faced three point-heavy teams like Mizzou, but that should not discount how great their perimeter defense has been. On the other side, Mizzou’s allowed opponents to hit 32.2% of their attempts from three.
Mizzou absolutely needs to find holes in Auburn’s perimeter defense and light it up. They also need to solve Auburn’s ability to shoot threes. This will be a three point battle that Mizzou must win.
3. Limit turnovers
Mizzou found themselves missing Mama Dembele against Kentucky due to travel issues from Spain. They also found themselves turning the ball over a season high 25 times. If Dembele was there, that would more than likely be less. At this point, we don’t know if she’s been able to make it back to the States yet, so we are assuming she is still stuck overseas.
As mentioned above, Auburn has really good perimeter defense. They’ve stolen the ball 146 times compared to their opponents’ 98, and forced 284 turnovers in comparison to turning it over 214 times. Mizzou’s turned the ball over 224 times, same as their forced turnovers, and stolen the ball 110 times, compared to their opponents’ 95.
KG lays it in with the left pic.twitter.com/C9lf1gup0U— Mizzou Basketball (@MizzouWBB) December 30, 2022
This game will be heavily dependent on how the guards execute passes. Of course unforced turnovers are important as well, but with Auburn’s perimeter defense, my focus is on offensive execution. Katlyn Gilbert will definitely be the starting point guard if Dembele is not there. She’s getting her footing back into the game despite turning the ball over five times against Kentucky. The way she plays and guides the offense will be critical in the turnover battle.
Mizzou takes on Kentucky today at 3 pm CST on SECN. You can listen to the radio call on KTGR and the MUTigers app.