After blowing out the Vanderbilt Commodores 86-69 on Thursday, the Missouri Tigers (15-8, 4-6 SEC) continue their home stand against the Alabama Crimson Tide (16-6, 5-4) as they look to extend their win streak and take the season series. Mizzou is coming off a complete offensive clinic against Vanderbilt, while Alabama only lost by 13 to No. 1 South Carolina.
Flash back to January 5 when these teams last met in Tuscaloosa. Both teams were in different places; Mizzou was 2-0 in conference play while Alabama was 1-1. That game was an absolute battle from start to finish. Mizzou ended up defeating Alabama 66-65 in the thriller.
Presently, here’s the difference between Mizzou and Alabama coming into this afternoon. The Tide are looking for vengeance, not only from the loss to Mizzou in January but the loss to South Carolina. No team takes a loss lightly but when it was a true battle against the best team in the nation, you’ll automatically be hungry for a win no matter the opponent.
It’s also important to note that the NCAA tournament goal is on both of their radars. As of Charlie Creme’s February 3 bracket, Mizzou maintains their spot in the Next Four Out while Alabama is slated as an 8-seed.
This game has a lot at stake for both teams, and both are hungry for more conference wins to boost their NCAA tournament resumé.
Here are my keys to the game for the Tigers.
Win the day ✔️ pic.twitter.com/5OaIE52s4K— Mizzou Basketball (@MizzouWBB) February 4, 2023
1. Disrupt Alabama’s offensive flow
There are tons of aspects of Alabama’s game to give credit to. They play really good defense, especially on quality players. Last time out against Mizzou they held Hayley Frank to nine points, and they held South Carolina’s Zia Cooke to six points on 18%. The latter of the two is abnormal for a player who averages 15.6 points per game.
But now we have to talk about their offense. A fire ignited in Sarah-Ashlee Barker against South Carolina when she just tore through defenses with her scoring prowess. Barker led Alabama in scoring with 15 points against one of the best defenses in the country, and has been absolutely incredible in SEC play.
As a team, the Tide’s offensive flow is really solid. They may be only eighth in the conference in scoring per game with 70.7ppg, but you can’t let that deceive you. Especially because Mizzou now finds themselves at 12th with 66.6. (Sorry for all you superstitious people out there.) They’re pretty good at sharing the ball although a lot of their plays are iso. The Tide is also one of the best in not turning the ball over with 14.8 per game. Against Mizzou, they turned it over 12 times, compared to the Tigers’ 17.
Although they’re not at the tippy top, Alabama’s offensive flow is efficient enough to almost beat Mizzou in January and to keep South Carolina within arm’s length.
2. Activate bench mob
My favorite part of their January matchup was Mizzou’s bench. Aside from being a bench play fan in general — they’re so much more crucial than people think — that is why the Tigers beat the Tide. It’s undeniable. Looking at the box score from that game will tell you exactly why but I will elaborate.
What the starters lacked in scoring numbers (28 points), the bench came through and lifted the team with 38. It was also not just one player carrying the bench load, rather three. Katlyn Gilbert scored 13, Ashton Judd had 11, while Sara-Rose Smith carried in points and rebounds with a double-double (11 points and a team-high 10 rebounds).
This bench production was completely unstoppable, and I have no doubt it can happen again. For a more recent example, look at Thursday’s win against Vanderbilt. Smith produced a career high 16 points on a perfect 6/6 shooting from the field in addition to five rebounds.
A night to remember— Mizzou Basketball (@MizzouWBB) February 3, 2023
Career-high 16 points
Five rebounds pic.twitter.com/kOmBPc5mfN
As Adeen mentioned in his recap from the Vandy win, the Tigers are 7-2 when the Aussie scores in double-digits and 8-6 when she doesn’t. Basically, ensure Smith gets double digits in scoring and all of the bench mob - like Judd and Gilbert - gets minutes and it’ll be a fun night for the Tigers.
3. Switch up offensive mechanics
As Madame Editor said in her links on Friday, the dynamic duo of Frank and Lauren Hansen are back. Well, pretty much back. An observation I had throughout the game was the shot selection, especially for Hansen.
Hansen hit four threes and was 4-8, but that’s not what popped out to me. What caught my attention the most in her 9-16 shooting night, for 22 points, was not her threes but her inside game (editor’s note: me too). Hansen was driving to the lane for some layups and received great passes on backdoor cuts. I can’t say for sure if that was a part of her specific game plan, but it definitely worked. When you’re not just relying heavily on the three and only the three and rather slicing through the defense with isolation plays, it makes it harder to defend.
Tiger tallies @hayfrank43: 25 pts. | 7 reb. | 3 stls.@laurenhansen_1: 22 pts. | 6 reb. | 4 ast.— Mizzou Basketball (@MizzouWBB) February 3, 2023
Rose: 16 pts. | 6-6 fg. | 5 reb.@ashton_judd: 10 pts. | 8 reb. | 3 ast. pic.twitter.com/mTd9flLMkh
I’m not saying Mizzou should completely go away from their three-point shooting and just pound the paint and cut on every single offensive possession. That just doesn’t make any sense. What I’m saying is when Mizzou diversified their offensive games, Vanderbilt’s defense couldn’t keep up.
This game is so important to Mizzou’s tournament chances. If they can continue their hot streak like they did over Vanderbilt, this game will end up being a good one.
Mizzou takes on Alabama this afternoon at 4 pm CST on SECN. You can listen to the radio call on KTGR and the MUTigers app.