On Monday, it was announced that the Tigers drew the Illinois State Redbirds for the first round of the WNIT where they were given the benefit of home-court advantage. In the regular season, Mizzou boasted a 10-6 record at home.
On the other side of the border, Illinois State played phenomenally on the road. In enemy territory, the Redbirds posted a 10-4 record. They defeated every single team in the MVC on the road with the exception of tournament team Drake. Drake earned the automatic bid in the NCAA tournament after defeating Illinois State in the MVC championship.
Mizzou’s big home losses were against Illinois, who is in one of the play-in games, a fellow WNIT team in Arkansas, powerhouse LSU and a controversial one to Tennessee. They unfortunately fumbled the bag against Florida to end the regular season. Overall, the home losses were against teams who ended up being far better than the Tigers. So in essence, not bad losses but obviously not fun.
I want to flash back to my preview ahead of the Mississippi State game where I talked about confidence. In yesterday’s media availability, Coach Pingeton reiterated how her players can’t let the voice inside their heads creep in.
LISTEN: #Mizzou Women's Basketball Head Coach Robin Pingeton says she's proud of how her team played this year despite a difficult stretch in the middle of the season. She says she wants her team to be able to enjoy the WNIT and "go out swinging."@KOMUsports pic.twitter.com/1GdS4nXrSE— Cara Brown (@carabrownsports) March 14, 2023
The only difference between the aforementioned Mississippi State matchup and this upcoming battle against Illinois State is it is now the postseason. Teams are different in the postseason; you know it, I know it and we all know it.
Mizzou knows they have to prove themselves against an extremely fierce team like Illinois State. The Redbirds may have been blown out by 20 points in the MVC championship game, but the Tigers know what it’s like to face off against a team with redemption on their minds.
Mizzou’s faced offensive machines in the SEC and Illinois State is no different. According to the game notes, the Redbirds are 8th in the NCAA in three-point field goal percentage with 37.7%. Just like the Tigers, they have a starting lineup who can drain three-pointers in Paige Robinson, Mary Crompton, Kate Bullman and Maya Wong. Also like Mizzou, they have a three-point sharpshooter off the bench in Abbie Aalsma. I noted how much of a machine Robinson is in my quick notes.
If I was to give one key to the game for the Tigers, it’d be to play aggressively for the whole 40 minutes. That consists of taking high-percentage shots, limiting turnovers, getting Hayley Frank involved on every single possession and not giving up when faced with in-game adversity.
As Haley Troup noted, this team is playing with a huge chip on their shoulders. They know what it takes to move on and redeem their season. They know they’re able of doing it and will work hard to move on to the second round. It’s redemption time and Mizzou is ready to battle until the final buzzer and beyond.