The Missouri Tigers (14-8, 3-6) return home after a two game road trip to face off against Vanderbilt Commodores (10-12, 1-7) fresh off their first SEC win against Texas A&M. On the other side, the Tigers are riding a six game losing streak after getting upset by Kentucky.
This losing streak unfortunately has the Tigers on the outside looking into the big dance according to Charlie Creme. He currently has Mizzou as the next four out.
Vanderbilt might not be in contention for the NCAA tournament but Mizzou still very much is. The Tigers have to get back in the win column if they want to return to March Madness for the first time since the Sophie Cunningham era. That journey starts tonight with Vanderbilt.
Here are the keys to the game for the Tigers.
1. Contain former SLU Billiken
When Mizzou takes the floor tonight, they’ll be greeted by a familiar foe in SLU alum, Ciaja Harbison. Mizzou fans might remember her for completely dumping points on the Tigers’ defense. She put on double digit shows in the three times she faced Mizzou, scoring 18 2018, 19 in 2019 and 14 in 2021.
After a decorated career at SLU, she opted to utilize her Covid year and graduate transfer to Vanderbilt. Basically, she is here to torture Mizzou’s defense once again. If you need any indication of how dominant she’s been this season in the SEC, look no further than her program tying 41 point outburst against A&M.
⚓️ Ciaja Harbison went OFF today— Vanderbilt WBB (@VandyWBB) January 30, 2023
She tied the Vandy single-game scoring record with 41 points in the win over Texas A&M.
❤️ What a moment ❤️— Vanderbilt WBB (@VandyWBB) January 29, 2023
⚓️ On Feb. 8, 2001, Chantelle Anderson set the Vandy record with 41 points.
⚓️ Today, Chantelle was here to see Ciaja Harbison tie her record. #AnchorDown pic.twitter.com/Oro0mmqbqF
That scoring outburst earned her SEC player of the week. Basically since moving to the SEC, she’s improved drastically. It’s truly fun to watch. She’s the Vanderbilt leader in points per game for the Commodores with 19.6 points per game and second in the conference. She’s also leading the team in steals with 2.2 per game, good for second* in the SEC. The 5’6 guard is an absolute menace and will need to be watched at all costs.
*There are three women above her who are all tied for first place with 2.4. Those are Jada Walker and Maddie Scherr of Kentucky and Aicha Coulibaly of Auburn.
2. Do not turn the ball over
Whatever you do Mizzou, do not turn that ball over. Don’t do it. It’s a trap. But realistically, the turnovers need to be limited to at the most 12. I don’t even want to mention how many turnovers they committed against Kentucky in their last matchup and back in December.
As a team, Vanderbilt is forcing 14.7 turnovers and 8.4 steals per game. Mizzou is turning the ball over 15.8 times per game. A lot of the turnovers Mizzou commits come off of unforced ones like traveling and throwing the ball away; extremely preventable ones.
A switch needs to flip in this must win game and turnovers will end up as a huge catalyst.
3. Take good shots
Okay, hear me out. The Tigers have not taken bad shots. The shots just haven’t found the bottom of the net. The lid is screwed on tight for Mizzou even for their best shooters like Lauren Hansen. Thankfully, Hayley Frank’s shooting stroke has come back into fruition during this losing streak.
20 piece— Mizzou Basketball (@MizzouWBB) January 29, 2023
3Q · 4:42 | Mizzou 39, Kentucky 56 pic.twitter.com/SQuvM9daCt
As long as Mizzou keeps getting good looks at the basket and takes those shots, they’ll eventually go in. Hopefully the Tigers’ shooting woes disappear tonight and the ball finds itself going through the net.
Mizzou takes on Vanderbilt tonight at 8 pm CST on SECN. You can listen to the radio call on KTGR and the MUTigers app.