The Missouri Tigers looked to maintain their undefeated home record on the season, heading into their matchup against the Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles, and rode hot shooting and uncharacteristically turnover-free basketball en route to a 96-62 triumph.
The Screaming Eagles came into the game with a 3-0 record and holding the title of being the 6th ranked team in the Ohio Valley Conference’s (OVC) preseason poll. Two members of the Southern Indiana roster came into the game with Preseason All-OVC honors, guard Vanessa Shafford and forward Meredith Raley, the duo was held to 25 points combined on 11-23 shooting from the field.
Make no mistake, however, while the Screaming Eagles were the Tigers’ opponent on the scoreboard, the Tigers’ real opponent on Monday night was always going to be themselves. Turnovers have plagued the Tigers all-season, and those woes continued early in the bout as the home team racked up three turnovers before the halfway mark of the first quarter.
Southern Indiana raced to an early 13-8 lead on the back of some opportunistic plays in transition and some poor ball security from Head Coach Robin Pingeton’s team.
Ashton Judd came into the game averaging 18.0 points per game, looking to match or increase that total and she had done exactly that with 9:17 left in the third quarter after a three-point bucket sent her to 19 points on the night. Judd finished the game with 26 points at an 8-16 (50%) clip.
“I just try to play with pace and let the game come to me,” Judd said. “A lot of it comes from my teammates who can find me open.”
Following a commanding 29-point performance against North Alabama, Hayley Frank looked to extend her great run of form in this bout. The graduate student had yet another vintage performance, totaling 26 points (14 of which came in the first half). Frank’s big night put her at 6th on the all-time scoring list for the University of Missouri.
After their season opener against the Belmont Bruins, Pingeton referred to how unbothered she was that her team had shot 4-22 from the three-point line, and how she had faith that those shots would fall this year. Those shots falling is exactly what propelled the Tigers to a 14-2 run that featured four threes as the Tigers strategically created open looks with fluid off-ball movement from their shooters.
Heading into the second quarter leading 22-15, the Tigers knew that if they could be safe with the ball then they could outplay the Screaming Eagles en route to a comfortable victory.
Much to the shagrin of the Screaming Eagles, the Tigers’ hot-night from beyond the arc continued in the second quarter, with Mama Dembele getting in on the action, racking up two threes in the first half after having just one three on the season heading into this bout.
Dembele came into the game third in assists and third in steals in all of Division I, and she picked up right where she left off against North Alabama with nine assists and two steals in this one. Dembele finished the game with 10 points on 4-8 (50%) shooting. Dembele maneuvered through open lanes to the basket all game, consistently burning the Screaming Eagles on the drive.
Ensuing a slow defensive start in the first quarter, the Tigers laid the clamps on Southern Indiana and did an excellent job contesting all of their shots and refraining from giving them open lanes to the basket, forcing the Screaming Eagles to take tough shots throughout the game.
Missouri outscored Southern Indiana 29-12 in the second quarter, netting them a commanding 51-27 lead at the half, their largest halftime lead all season. 51 points is also the largest amount of points Pingeton’s group has racked up in the first half this season, and it was mostly on the back of a 9-19 (47.4%) performance from the three-point line.
After playing tight defense for the majority of the first half, the Tigers seemingly got away from it in the second half, allowing many open looks for the Screaming Eagles as they attempted to claw back into the game. The Screaming Eagles took advantage of an inopportune Tiger shooting drought and actually outscored the Tigers 27-26 in the third quarter, but still had a daunting 77-54 lead to surmount in the fourth quarter if they were going to win this game.
The Tigers found themselves in cruise control in the fourth quarter, and rode good defense and smart basketball to an emphatic victory on home soil. The victory propels the Tigers to 4-1 on the season ahead of their trip to Daytona Beach, FL for the Daytona Beach Classic, where they will attempt to continue this good run of offensive form.
Statistically, the Tigers outshot the Screaming Eagles 34-67 (50.7%) to 25-66 (37.9%), and outrebounded them 49 to 31.
Turnover-wise, Missouri didn’t find the clean game that Pingeton has been looking for as the Tigers racked up 15 turnovers, but despite creating turnovers of their own they have done an excellent job of generating takeaways of their own all season, as they picked up 14 in this one.
Regardless of the turnovers, the Tigers proved that they have enough offensive firepower to hang with just about anyone Monday night, and if they can continue to ride Dembele’s efficient playmaking ability, this team could be a tournament contender as the season rolls along.
UP NEXT: Missouri will take on the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles on Friday November 24th at 7 PM CST. The tourney will be available on FloHoops.