This Missouri Tiger team relies heavily on good perimeter shooting and they started off the game on the right foot as Lauren Hansen and Haley Troup both drained triples. One of the biggest matchups in the game was going to be whether Jayla Kelly could handle Alabama big Jada Rice in the post, and Alabama looked to exploit that matchup. Rice got the best of Kelly on their first possession but then Kelly held strong on the next two, which prompted an elbow to the face from Rice which was subsequently reviewed after Kelly was slow to get up.
After the review it was ruled that it was an intentional foul and Hayley Frank drained the free throws that came with it. Frank drained a three on the next possession and Rice got her second foul in the first five minutes which means she would have to be subbed off for foul trouble. Rice being in foul trouble was a key factor in these teams first matchup.
The Hansen-Frank duo was cooking early for Mizzou as they had 14 of Mizzou’s first 17 points in the game. Mizzou’s defense held Alabama to no FGs in the final 4:46 of the first quarter and held a 19-13 lead after one.
Frank looked as if she would continue her incredible offensive run as she already had 13 points with 7:10 left in the first half. The Tigers offense continued to flourish with the help of Haley Troup’s solid three-point shooting and the Tigers held on to a 28-23 lead with 2:31 left in the first half. Alabama hit a lay-up at the buzzer and the Tigers retreated to the locker room with a humble but not comfortable 30-27 lead.
Coach Pingeton had some issue with her team’s shot-taking in the second quarter, and brought it up in the postgame. “I didn’t really like the shot selection in the second quarter,” Pingeton said. “You can hit threes early but you can’t just jack up shots in the game and expect to win.”
Alabama started off the second half hot as they continued their 4-0 run from the end of the first half and built up a 10-0 run to take a 33-30 lead. Turnovers have been a problem in most of the Tigers’ losses and they had already accumulated 11 with 7:27 left in the third quarter. The bleeding didn’t stop as a Brittany Davis and-one brought the Tide’s run to 13 straight. An Ashton Judd three saw the run come to an end though, as the Tigers had newfound life. Mizzou cut a longstanding Alabama lead down to 41-39 but some costly turnovers and just overall sloppy basketball led to Alabama garnering a 7-0 run to put Missouri in the toughest spot they’d been all game, down 9 with 1:49 left in the third.
Missouri answered with a 7-0 run with the help of good shooting from Judd again, who amassed eight points in just the third quarter. After three, Alabama held a surmountable 51-47 lead which set up the biggest fourth quarter of the season for the Tigers.
Brittany Davis proved to be a recurring problem for the Tigers, as she had already amassed 27 points with 7:45 left in the game. Every single time the Tigers looked as if they were getting back in the game, even when the crowd tried to make it tough for Alabama, the Tide would drain a three. Missed layups were too common for Mizzou and they left key points off the board, and in close games you just cannot have that.
Davis continued to hit tough shot after tough shot, not allowing Mizzou to get back into the game, and eventually she just continued to do that until the clock hit zeroes as Alabama rode away to a 76-69 victory. Ultimately, the loss stings because not only was it at home, but it was the second time the Tigers had lost to a team they beat earlier in the year. You have to believe that a loss like this was a dagger into the team’s tourney hopes, with just one signature win available at Arkansas aside from the SEC Tournament.
“At the end of the day, if you allow nearly 50 points in the second half, you will have a hard time winning,” Coach Pingeton said. “We just couldn’t stop Davis and that hurt us.”
The loss dropped the Tigers to 15-9 and 4-7 in conference play, which basically makes every game from this point on a must-win. Being in that situation doesn’t usually yield a tourney appearance, but I believe in surprises.
Statistically, the Tigers shot 53.8% from three-point range and 44.9% from the field, while Alabama shot 48.1% from the field and 27.1% from three. Missouri turned the ball over 16 times and got outrebounded 32-25. As far as leading scorers, Frank led the Tigers with 26 points while Davis topped Alabama with 33 points. Haley Troup and Ashton Judd joined Frank as double-digit point scorers.
“You hate to say it but the reality is, our backs are against the wall now.” Pingeton said. “Every game is a must-win from now on, and if you’re looking at the tournament you have to win out.”
UP NEXT: Missouri gets a bit of a breather, and will take on the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville a week from today, on Sunday, February 12th, at 2 PM CST.