The Missouri Tigers (14-7, 3-5 SEC) looked to snap a five-game skid against the lowly Kentucky Wildcats (9-11, 1-7), but got boat-raced in a 77-54 losing effort.
The Tigers found themselves down very early in this one, as the Wildcats raced to a 9-3 run. It became very apparent early that Kentucky meant business, especially on the defensive end as they held Mizzou to single-digits in the opening frame. Something that has been characteristic in this five-game losing streak for Missouri has been slow starts, and this game was no different as they were down 22-9 after one quarter.
Stopping the bleeding was the main objective in the second quarter, and it was not met as Kentucky continued on an 8-2 run to open the second. Missouri answered with a 6-0 run in which Hayley Frank really showed her consistency in knocking down shots when needed. She was seemingly the only one doing so and was the only Missouri player to finish with double-digits. She had 21 and was 7-14 from the field.
Kentucky’s starting lineup of Maddie Scherr, Nyah Leveretter, Jada Walker, Blair Green, and Robyn Benton absolutely dominated and combined for 66 points, and 4/5 of their starting lineup got double digit points on the night. Kentucky just flat-out shot well in all facets in this one, shooting 51.1% from the field and 53.3% from three. On the other hand, Missouri really shot poorly outside of Frank’s performance, as they shot 34.2% from the field and 33.3% from beyond the arc if you removed Frank’s stellar numbers.
As far as turnovers are concerned, this is by far the Tigers’ worst performance of the season as they had 22 turnovers (10 of which came in the first quarter alone) which led to 28 points off of them for Kentucky. At the end of the day, most of the time teams that constantly turn over the ball will not win and that’s been a thing that has plagued these Tigers in this massive skid.
What does a massive 77-54 loss like this mean for tournament hopes? Well, Missouri is in the first four out in the latest ESPN Women’s Bracketology so this loss surely puts a massive dent in their tourney hopes. Additionally, I feel like it’s a tale of two teams right now and this loss really took the cake. Prior to the skid, Missouri beat this very Kentucky team on their home court exactly one month ago, and now the Tigers look completely different. It really goes to show how losses against anyone, even good competition can really make a team crumble.
The Tennessee loss specifically looks to be the culprit to me (editor’s note: me too), as that was a game that Mizzou looked to have finally found their groove but the heartbreaking ending has really played down their confidence. This is the second game in a row where it looked winnable for Mizzou before the tip and they really didn’t come close to winning in either.
Long story short, Missouri now has two home games against Vanderbilt and Alabama to get their groove back and those games are big tests for not only this team, but Robin Pingeton as a head coach. Realistically speaking, she has to find a way to fix this team and get them en route to a tourney appearance or else her time can and will run out. She may have an extension through 2024, but as we’ve seen with Missouri’s AD, she’s not afraid to make a change when warranted.
UP NEXT: Missouri takes on Vanderbilt at home on Thursday February 2nd at 8 PM CST.