The Missouri Tigers (14-2, 3-0) are playing for a chance at history as they face the Arkansas Razorbacks (15-3, 2-1) at Mizzou Arena this afternoon. Should they pull off a W today, the Tigers would be starting off 4-0 in conference play, something that hasn’t been done since the 1979-1980 season.
Currently, the Tigers sit at 3-0 in the SEC, their best start since Sophie Cunningham’s senior season in 2018-2019. As Karen said in her Friday links post, Haley Troup was on that team.
Speaking of Troup, congrats to her on breaking the decades old record of appearances in a Tiger uniform! Still plenty of more to come and extend the record, including no. 133 this afternoon.
History made @haleytroup13 has set a new program record with 132 career appearances! pic.twitter.com/BkUxFUxVDt— Mizzou Basketball (@MizzouWBB) January 6, 2023
As for the Razorbacks, they keep getting better every single season under head coach Mike Neighbors. He’s proven to be an excellent recruiter and knows how to succeed, especially against the Tigers. Out of all the SEC teams Mizzou’s faced so far, Arkansas is by far the best. They have athleticism, high-powered scoring, energy and grittiness that Mizzou’s past opponents lacked.
This game is going to be an absolute dog fight in front of the Tiger faithful. Let’s get to the keys of the game.
1. Spread the scoring
Mizzou plays well when everyone gets to touch the ball and attempt a shot. Whenever Mizzou’s ball movement is on point and they’re swinging it around, good looks appear and a bucket is often the outcome.
Against a team like Arkansas who is going to try and shut down the Tigers’ two best shooters in Hayley Frank and Lauren Hansen, Mizzou will need to execute an offensive where every single player gets the chance to get a good, highly efficient shot. The Razorbacks offense is made up of four players who average double-digits in scoring. while Mizzou only has the aforementioned two.
Arkansas is going to look at swarming Frank and Hansen at all costs, which allows the opportunity for others to step up. Instead of forcing bad looks, the Tigers need to take highly efficient shots when they’re available. If you need further proof of how this works, this tweet of Friday’s game stats should be enough.
All out effort @_sheh00ps: 13 pts. | 5 reb. | 4 ast.— Mizzou Basketball (@MizzouWBB) January 6, 2023
Rosie: 11 pts. | 10 reb. | 4 ast.@ashton_judd: 11 pts. | 4-9 fg.@laurenhansen_1: 10 pts. | 3-6 3fg. | 3 reb.@hayfrank43: 9 pts. | 4-9 fg. | 2 reb.@haleytroup13: 5 pts. | 3 reb. pic.twitter.com/KFslJCUcq7
2. Play stellar defense
Arkansas’ roster consists of four players who are flat-out beasts. I don’t know how else to describe them, so let’s talk about their stats.
First, there’s 2022 SEC Freshman of the Year Samara Spencer. Spencer can do quite literally everything on the court. She can shoot, rebound, steal, dish. Spencer is a pure point guard but is so versatile that it may not look like it on the court. Currently, she’s averaging 15.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists on 41.7% from the field and 35% from three this season.
Next up is Erynn Barnum. Barnum went from a role player off the bench to a full-time starter in her final year. She is a post player who makes a living down in the paint. She’s averaging 15.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while swatting a co-team high with 20. Additionally, she’s shooting a casual 62.2% from the field.
Makayla Daniels is a familiar foe, as Mizzou’s starters have seen her plenty of times. In all but two matchups, she’s dumped double digits on the Tigers. Daniels is an all-around player who can tear teams apart in so many ways. Daniels is averaging 13.6 points and four rebounds per game while recording a team high in steals (25).
Last is Chrissy Carr. The Kansas State/Syracuse transfer is an all-around consistent player who puts up great numbers offensively. When she transferred from Kansas State to Syracuse, her scoring numbers did decrease, and have slightly fallen since arriving in Fayetteville, though it’s a pretty miniscule amount. Her current average of 11.3 points per game is about 0.3 less than what she finished with at Syracuse.
I can go through pretty much everyone who gets consistent playing time up and down this Razorback roster and tell you all the talent they have. I even purposely left out one of their starters because her strength lies somewhere else that you’ll read about below. This Arkansas offense is high-powered and full of extremely unique skills that mesh together. Mizzou needs to play some of their best defense to slow them down.
3. Rebound like there’s no tomorrow
I have already mentioned how good Barnum is pretty much everywhere on the court. Her 6.6 rebounds per game is second on the team and it’s crucial the Tigers box her out, but there’s another player the Tiger will have their hands full with.
Prized UConn transfer Saylor Poffenbarger cleans the glass at an elite level for a redshirt-freshman with not too much playing time. Her numbers are quite similar to Sara-Rose Smith’s in regard to both shooting and rebounding averages. Poffenbarger does have the edge offensively, though, with nine points and eight rebounds per game.
As a team, Arkansas is averaging 42.6 rebounds per game while allowing opponents to grab 40.2. Mizzou is averaging 36.5 while allowing 31.4. Although those numbers favor Mizzou, don’t let what’s written on paper stop you from realizing this game will be a battle of the boards.