The Missouri Tigers knew they were going to have it tough against the fifth-ranked 16-0 LSU Tigers, and they got it tough as the Bayou Bengals raced away to a 77-57 win.
After a modest scoring in the first four minutes, LSU woke up with three-straight three-pointers en route to a 15-5 closing run in the first quarter. The run was the main catalyst to LSU’s 19-7 first quarter lead. The seven points for Mizzou marked the second straight game they had failed to secure double-digit points after the first frame.
The three-point barrage did not end in the second quarter for LSU as they rode Alexis Morris’ 3-3 start from beyond the arc to a monstrous 27-10 lead. A Hayley Frank three kickstarted a 5-0 Mizzou run to cut the lead back down to 12, and Jayla Kelly, perhaps with her best overall game of the season by the buzzer, made her presence known with four rebounds early.
Luckily for Mizzou, post players Angel Reese, the All-American transfer from Maryland and Missouri transfer LaDazhia Williams both picked up two personal fouls in the first quarter. The duo was forced to sit for the majority of the first half, which caused LSU’s offensive prominence to be curtailed to some extent. However, LSU remained money from three-point range as they begun the game shooting 7-11 from downtown, making it really difficult for Mizzou to claw its way back in.
By halftime, LSU held a commanding 37-21 lead and Morris was immaculate in her three point shooting going 4-4 and tallying 14 points. Mizzou had no answer for her, or the other Bayou Bengals, if we’re being brutally honest, as Jayla Kelly, Mama Dembele, and Ashton Judd’s foul trouble impacted their ability to do much of anything in the first half. Leading at the half marked LSU’s 17th straight game of double-digits leads going into the break, by the way
If you recall Lauren’s preview from earlier this morning, you know how important it was for Mizzou to get its shooting mojo back. That did not happen in the first half at least, as the Tigers shot 8-25 from the field and 2-7 from three-point range. Sara-Rose Smith and Lauren Hansen tied for Missouri’s scoring lead with five points each, against a team who averages 90 points a game. On the plus side, I did notice that Missouri was able to create havoc in the paint when they were quick to drive upon receiving passes.
Early in the third quarter, a Hansen dribble-drive saw Williams pick up her third foul, a crucial foul from LSU’s standpoint as one of their stars were forced to sit again. Missouri started the quarter off hot on a 4-0 run to cut the lead down to 12 again. After a layup from LSU, Mizzou went on another 4-0 run to bring the lead all the way down to 10.
The run was short-lived, however, as LSU drained yet another three to put the lead back to 13. Once more though, Missouri displayed their tenacity and went on a 9-0 run, bringing the lead to single digits for the first time since the first quarter. How did they do it? By showcasing shutdown defense and forcing turnovers, as Lauren addressed in the morning’s preview. It’s almost like they know what they’re talking about, huh?
In the blink of an eye, LSU’s lead was diminished to 42-38 with 4:28 left in the third with Mizzou Arena going crazy trying to push on their Tigers. Just as their momentum was building, though, Missouri seemed to shift away from the dribble-drive that had been working so well and opt for three-point looks. That strategy proved fateful, as LSU scurried on to a 7-0 run to re-up their double-digit lead.
Foul trouble also continued to plague the (good) Tigers, as Frank, Hansen, and Dembele all had three fouls before the end of the third quarter. Missed three pointers absolutely killed the Tigers and their momentum, as they found themselves 3-15 from beyond the arc with 1:30 left in the third. A stark contrast to the 10-14 LSU was able to put together. What started out so promising ended with a screeching halt, as Missouri ended the third quarter much the way it started, down 15.
The black & gold Tigers tipped off the fourth on the right foot, as Dembele drained a three for her 11th point of the game, and on the next possession, she executed a beautiful shot fake and passed to Haley Troup, who also drained a three. However, after opening with those two shots from Mizzou, LSU responded on a 5-0 run as Reese began to take over the game. After what appeared to be a slower start for the All-American, Angel ended up recording an SEC record-breaking 17th straight double-double, finishing with 20 points and 12 rebounds. To me, she shows how good she is, as she had a “quiet” double-double for the most part. We didn’t even notice what she was doing. Reese’s partner in crime, Alexis Morris, finished with a game-high 24 points, shooting a perfect 5-5 from three.
Missouri was heavily out-rebounded (37-26) for the second straight game and were really no match for the Bayou Bengals’ absurd athleticism. Hansen was the Tigers’ leading scorer with 22 points off 8-20 shooting, and Mama Dembele’ had 11. Missouri leading scorer Hayley Frank was heavily guarded all night, and fouled out with 5:57 left in the fourth with just three points.
LSU shot 66.7% from three in the game, and were able to get many open and uncontested looks from three in the 77-57 victory. Aside from this crazy statistic, realistically speaking, the real difference in this game was Missouri’s epically slow start to the first quarter, which ended up being the difference. For a team of LSU’s talent, you just can’t allow yourself to start so far behind the eight-ball up front. They’re just not going to allow you back into the game as hard as you claw. The loss dropped Missouri to 14-4 and 3-2 in SEC-play, and their schedule is not set to get any easier in the SEC gauntlet.
UP NEXT: The Missouri Tigers take on the undefeated No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks on Sunday, January 15th at 12 PM CST in Columbia East. You can watch the action on ESPN.