Welcome to the month where every single college basketball fan goes nuts. It is officially March, which means it’s postseason time. Although not every single conference has started their postseason tournaments, the SEC tournament is in full swing. This morning, No. 9 seed Mizzou (17-12, 6-10) will take on No. 8 seed Arkansas (20-11, 7-9) in the second round. The winner gets the pleasure of facing off against No. 1 South Carolina. Fun.
Instead of giving my usual keys to the game, I’m going to go through what went wrong and what went right for Mizzou in the two regular season matchups between the two teams. To refresh your memory, Mizzou hosted Arkansas on January 8 and travelled to Arkansas on February 12. Let’s get started.
Arkansas at Mizzou, January 8, 2023
Result: Arkansas 77, Mizzou 55.
What went right:
The clear star of the show for the Tigers was Haley Troup. She was the best Tiger on the floor, carrying the offense in scoring. She scored a career high 24 points on 63.6% shooting from the field and 66.7% from three.
Mizzou protected the ball pretty well, only turning the ball over 11 times. Remember, the threshold is commonly agreed upon to be 12. The team only totaled seven assists (which is not good) but the bright spot is Mama Dembele holding six of those.
On the defensive end, Mizzou forced 10 turnovers with seven coming off steals. Dembele led the team with three steals while Hayley Frank trailed behind her with two. Troup and Hansen contributed with one each.
What went wrong:
Transition points were practically non-existent. They had several opportunities to convert off Arkansas turnovers but only could amount to six.
Extremely poor shooting in the first quarter pretty much set the tone for the Tigers. They scored nine in the first quarter but only scored five points on field goal attempts. Mizzou got great looks most times but just couldn’t find the bottom of the net. It improved throughout the rest of the game but it wasn’t enough to get into fighting position for a comeback.
Their defense completely collapsed from the second quarter on. Arkansas was draining shots left and right and just could not miss. They accumulated 11 second chance points and 40 points in the paint, and nothing could stop the Razorbacks after that tight first quarter.
Mizzou at Arkansas, February 12, 2023
Result: Mizzou 33, Arkansas 61
What went right:
I know it may seem like nothing went right for the Tigers but I promise some things did. Exhibit A: defense.
Ignore the score for just a second. (Editor’s note: What score?!?) Mizzou played really well on the defensive end, stealing the ball 11 times and forcing 21 Arkansas turnovers. They were also able to limit Saylor Poffenbarger to only six points on 22.2% shooting. (In the first meeting, she erupted for 24 points on 50% shooting.) They forced Eryn Barnum to turn it over 12 times which is not an easy task as she’s only recorded single digits in turnovers this season. They did score 16 points off the Razorbacks’ turnovers.
What went wrong:
No one on this roster hit double digits in scoring. That is completely abnormal for this Tiger squad. If that happens, then clearly something wasn’t clicking. Like the first matchup, there was a lid on the basket for all of the game except for the fourth quarter. They didn’t even hit double digits in a quarter until the fourth when they just so happened to outscore Arkansas 15-14. As a team, they shot the ball 28.3% from the field and 6.7% from three.
Their turnovers obviously did not help the offense get together, either. They turned the ball over 21 times, which allowed Arkansas to score 24 points off turnovers. The Tigers were completely suffocated by the Razorback defense and just couldn’t figure out how to get out of it.
How to beat Arkansas in the SEC tournament.
Taking what I pointed out in the two matchups, the glaring truth is evident. This is going to be another tough matchup for two teams with tournament aspirations. Mizzou has much more at stake now that they’re completely out of bubble consideration.
Mizzou needs to come out as aggressive as ever. The bright side is that they have Sara-Rose Smith to anchor the rebounding and stretch the floor. Frank and Hansen need to come together and click on offense immediately. The bench must get involved as soon as they step onto the floor.
The Tigers absolutely cannot fumble the bag in the third go around. Arkansas is Mizzou’s kryptonite but it just takes one shot and one stop to turn the game’s momentum in the right direction. Hopefully the Tigers can learn from their mistakes and shock the Razorbacks.