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Mizzou WBB preview: Tigers look to get back into the win column against No. 5 LSU

A former Mizzou Tiger returns to the Zou but in purple and gold.

Mitchell Scaglione/ Mizzou Athletics

After a head tilting 55-77 loss against the Arkansas Razorbacks, the Missouri Tigers (14-3, 3-1) welcome No. 5 LSU (16-0, 4-0) to Mizzou Arena tonight. If you thought Kim Mulkey’s squad last season was strong, then you haven’t seen what the other Tigers are doing to their SEC opponents.

This 16-0 start is their best start in program history which says a lot about their strength. They lost a few pieces to the portal like Ajae Petty to Kentucky and Sarah Shematsi to Kansas State, but the haul they brought into Baton Rouge is unreal.

A few of the more highly notable names they brought in are Jasmine Carson from West Virginia, Angel Reese from Maryland and Mizzou alum LaDazhia Williams. Basically, LSU got better and are top-notch contenders to win the conference after South Carolina.

LSU is more than likely favored to win this game, but stranger things have happened when Mizzou is faced with adversity.

Here are the keys to the game against the other Tigers.

1. Katlyn Gilbert

When one singular player is a full-on key to the game, you know I believe she’s making a great impact. Gilbert is getting back into her basketball groove, and it is just so awesome to see. Stop me if I’ve said that before.

Something I noticed post-Arkansas game that fellow Rock M and Mizzou women’s hoops writer for the Missourian tweeted out is the impact Gilbert has on the team when she plays well.

As you can see in the above tweet, looking at the losses in the last five games, Gilbert lacked offensive fluidity, averaging just 2 points and 1 assist. In the wins, she’s dominated with 11.3 points and 3 assists. Those stats don’t even include her three steals per game. When Gilbert is running the point and playing well off the bench, Mizzou tends to thrive.

2. Get shooting mojo back

To say that Mizzou’s shooting against Arkansas was bad is a ridiculous understatement. It was messy, but it wasn’t necessarily their fault. There was a lid on the basket, but they were able to get extremely good looks. The shots just didn’t fall. It happens. Coach Pingeton mentioned the team’s unusual difficulties during Monday’s Tiger Talk. Fellow Rock M writer, Jackson Meyer, who live-tweeted the event, shared her sentiment:

Just looking at the box score and not the actual game, you already get that picture, but Pingeton’s words sum it up completely. Someone needs to get Mizzou back on track with their shooting. Haley Troup carried the load with a career-high 24 points, but she can’t do it alone, and Coach P has expressed the need for Troup to play more aggressively. Hayley Frank and Lauren Hansen need to get hot and the bench tandem of Gilbert and double-double queen, Sara-Rose Smith, need to get involved in the scoring, too. Getting their shooting mojo back against this strong LSU team will prove a ton regardless of whatever the result ends up being.

3. Play elite defense

LSU embodies a high-powered offensive machine. They boast four players averaging double-digits with Angel Reese leading the way with 24.2 points per game, good for first in the SEC. A lot of their offense is run in the post through Reese, Flau’jae Johnson, and Williams. Yet, they still punish defenses beyond the arc. They’re third in the SEC in three-point field goal percentage with 35.2%, trailing only Arkansas at first and Mizzou at second (35.5%).

LSU statistics as of January 11, 2023.

If Mizzou is to focus on one player the most, it has to be Reese. Along with her SEC-lead in points, she’s leading the conference in rebounds with 15.6 per game including a 28-rebound showing against Texas A&M on January 5. (Editor’s note: Wow). She’s the SEC’s new Aijha Blackwell.

Mizzou’s defense needs to show up the most out of anything. Yes, the offense is very important, but getting defensive stops and turning defense into offense is so crucial to defeating a top-5 team.

Mizzou takes on LSU tonight at 6 pm CST on SECN. You can listen to the radio call on KTGR and the MUTigers app.