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Judd’s standout performance leads Mizzou WBB to big 75-62 win over Mississippi State

Hayley Frank and Lauren Hansen combined for 42 points to supplement Judd in the massive win.

@MizzouWBB | Twitter

The Missouri Tigers (16-10, 5-8) took on the Mississippi State Bulldogs (18-8, 7-6) in a must-win game for their tournament hopes. The Tigers, who had lost 8 in a row and were heading down a seemingly dark path, took down the red-hot Bulldogs, winners of their last three, in a convincing 75-62 win.

Early on, it seemed like it was going to be much of the same game as last time, as Missouri had trouble getting the shots to fall. Jerkaila Jordan was a problem early as she knocked down 2 of 3 from beyond the arc to get an early 6-0 lead for MS State. It really seemed as if the real fight in this one was the Missouri Tigers vs the Missouri Tigers, and as Coach P referenced during Tiger Talk on Wednesday night, they had to beat themselves first if they wanted to win this one.

Playing zone, it seemed as if the Tigers wanted the Bulldogs to take the three, as they were consistently giving up open looks from beyond the arc, of which MSU rode to an early 11-2 run. After scoring double-digit points in only one quarter in their previous matchup against Arkansas, it looked like Missouri was well on pace to do the same in this one.

However, an offensive surge came after the Tigers fell 16-6. Missouri went on a quick 4-0 run to bring the lead down to six, making it a 16-10 Bulldog lead after one. Missouri, for their part, did a fantastic job of getting turnovers and had forced seven in just the first quarter, and that is precisely why they clawed back into the game. Not just that, they limited their own turnovers to two (editor’s note: it seemed like there were more than that).

“What I recognize most, is that first quarter,” Head Coach Robin Pingeton said. “I recognize how we responded.”

Ashton Judd continued the run into the second quarter with a three and narrowed the lead to 16-13, and a turnover on the ensuing possession led to Hayley Frank draining two threes to bring it to 16-15. Judd was on fire early, starting 3-3 with seven points. Sara-Rose Smith, still hobbled from her hamstring injury but wearing a wrap, hit a three as the Tigers tied the game up 20-20 for the first time all game. Lauren Hansen hit a smooth layup after a Bulldog turnover and the Tigers took their first lead with 3:45 left in the first half, 25-23.

“We were just waiting to get going again after these past couple games.” Judd said.

The Tigers continued to build their lead while restricting turnovers and creating turnovers, it was overall the best basketball I have seen them play in quite some time. The offense didn’t stop as Missouri took a humble 32-28 lead into the halftime break, having accumulated a whopping 10 steals in the first half.

The only thing keeping the Bulldogs in the game was their ability to drain three-pointers, as the Tigers’ relentless offensive pressure paid dividends. Judd continued to drain threes, including two in a row, giving Missouri a 40-34 lead. The Bulldogs went on a 7-0 run to answer though, and they retook the lead for the first time since it was 23-20.

Lauren Hansen began to turn it up for Missouri, and with 4:11 left in the third quarter, she’d picked up a quiet 10 points. A beautiful sequence which had two offensive rebounds resulted in a Frank three and re-gave the Tigers the lead, 48-43 with 2:58 remaining in the third. From there, another Hansen three gave Missouri a comfortable 53-43 lead with 40 seconds left in the third. A late Bulldog bucket meant the Tigers would ride a 53-45 in a very important fourth quarter, with their tournament hopes riding on it.

Ms. Consistent Hayley Frank continued her run of good form (minus the Arkansas game that didn’t happen by the way) with another three to keep the Tigers lead large. She followed up with another three two possessions later as Missouri reached their largest lead of the night of 11 at 67-56 with 4:37 left in the game. Meanwhile, Judd continued to knock down buckets as she eclipsed 17 points on the night.

In a game they desperately needed to win, the Tigers produced one of their best performances of the season to keep their season alive. They coasted at the end of the game to a prominent 75-62 victory, a huge victory over a hot Bulldog team.

This game was a clear example that, for the Tigers to win conference games, they absolutely and desperately need both Hansen and Frank to produce, because in every game they have done this, they have either come close to a win or won.

Defensively, the Tigers never let up and continued to play relentlessly on the ball, causing a ton of wasted Bulldog possessions and forced many bad shots. I could probably count the amount of Bulldog airballs from three on more than one hand; that’s how hard it was for Mississippi State to get traction after the first quarter.

The Tigers shot 46% from the field but they shot a fantastic 55% from three, with Lauren Hansen, Hayley Frank, and Ashton Judd combining for 59 of the Tigers’ 75 points. They forced 20 Mississippi State turnovers and had 15 steals, their most in conference play thus far. Missouri only turned over the ball 10 times, which was the key to their success in this game.

“A lot of it has to do with the ‘little voice in your head’,” Hansen said. “It was our mindset that kept us going.”

UP NEXT: The Tigers take on the Texas A&M Aggies on Monday, February 20 in College Station at 6 PM CST. Shoutout my college Lauren Rosenberg; they will be covering that game in person!