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Despite shaking off slow start, Mizzou women’s basketball falls to Texas A&M

The loss drops the Tigers to 2-5 in SEC play.

Cal Tobias/Rock M Nation

“It’s not how you start, but it’s how you finish.”

Michael Phelps, one of the most decorated athletes of all time, once said that, and it certainly applied to Mizzou women’s basketball on Thursday night.

While they were able to shake off a slow shooting start and make the final few possessions the most important ones of the game, the Tigers fell to the Aggies 69-67. The loss dropped them to 11-9 overall and 2-5 in SEC play.

The Tigers seemed to set an aggressive tone from the get-go. The first play of the game saw Mama Dembele cross over her defender, attack the basket and draw a shooting foul on the layup attempt, where she knocked down both free throws.

However, Texas A&M was more than up for the challenge. Offensively, they were hitting from the mid-range early on. Defensively, the Aggies were using their superior size effectively to deny Mizzou on the interior, so Hayley Frank and Grace Slaughter were unable to get comfortable inside. At the 5:12 mark, A&M led 11-4.

The dominance continued for the rest of the quarter. While the Tigers generated open looks from beyond the arc, they couldn’t convert, as they shot 0/6 from three over the first 10 minutes. They were also getting dominated inside on both ends of the floor. A&M out-rebounded MU 14-5 and scored their last three baskets of the quarter via layups. The Aggies led 15-6 at the end of one.

“We definitely dug ourselves a hole in the first quarter, but we do pride ourselves on keeping our energy high and being really locked in,” Slaughter said. “I think that’s what helped us find our way back.”

Cal Tobias/Rock M Nation

The second quarter saw Mizzou continue to misfire on open opportunities. Ashton Judd missed a wide-open layup, and Dembele missed two free throws. The Tigers missed their first five shots to start the quarter, although they were getting back some of those missed opportunities on defense. That included Judd, who deflected a pass that led to a steal, and then drew a charge on the next possession.

It wasn’t until a little over halfway through the quarter that Mizzou started finding a groove on offense. Frank swished a three from the left wing for MU’s first triple of the game, which was immediately followed by an Abbey Schreacke jumper. After another pair of buckets by Frank and Judd, the Tigers had cut the lead to four with 2:04 to go. After a little more basket-trading, the Aggies entered halftime up 31-25.

“I think we just had to relax a little bit,” head coach Robin Pingeton said. “We had some really good looks that just were rushed...but their ability to make that adjustment, take a deep breath, recalibrate...I just think that’s so huge.”

The third quarter saw a lot of back and forth to start, with A&M gaining a slight edge over the first five minutes. The Aggies worked the ball inside and scored often, as they put in a few layups that helped extend their lead to 40-32 at the under-five timeout.

That theme would continue throughout the quarter, as neither team scored more than two baskets in a row. Ashton Judd finally mustered up some juice offensively, as she shot 3/4 from the field with two jumpers. Frank also drilled a trio of triples to bring her scoring total to 18, which included one where she got her contact lens knocked out. The Tigers ended the quarter strong with a three from Frank and two Dembele free throws to bring MU within four at the end of three.

Cal Tobias/Rock M Nation

The fourth quarter started on an electric note for Mizzou. Dembele drove hard to her left and converted an and-one. Shortly after, Slaughter hit a deep three from the right wing to bring the Tigers within two. After a trap inside created a steal and transition opportunity, Dembele found Slaughter wide open in the left corner for three that blissfully swished to put MU on top with 6:49 left. After Mizzou Arena had been dormant for most of Thursday night, Grace slaughtering A&M from downtown got them loud and on their feet.

Through the middle part of the quarter, both teams were scoring at a high rate, but neither could separate from one another. Offensively, Mizzou worked the paint well, as Dembele, Judd and Slaughter all scored or were rewarded with free throws. Neither team had a lead of greater than two until the 2:42 mark, when Dembele went 1/2 from the charity stripe to put Mizzou up by three. Naturally, A&M immediately responded with a three-pointer.

After that, both teams traded layups, then free throws. Tied at 65 with 49.2 seconds left, A&M took their time on offense. After Sahara Jones missed a three-pointer, Tineya Hylton snared the offensive rebound and got fouled, where she converted both free throws. On the other end, Dembele lost the ball out of bounds while trying to throw a cross-court pass from the baseline. Two more free throws by Hylton essentially put the game on ice.

Cal Tobias/Rock M Nation

Thursday saw Mizzou fail to meet the moment at the end for the second consecutive game. Against Kentucky on Sunday, they let the Wildcats bleed almost 30 seconds of valuable time off the clock when they let UK play out an offensive possession until there were five seconds left on the game clock...only for Ajae Petty to grab an offensive rebound, knock down two free throws and seal the game.

This time around saw a similar situation play out, but on offense. With the score tied late in the game, Dembele dribbled idly at the top of the key for around 20 seconds, once again killing valuable time.

Frank led the Tigers in scoring with 26, surpassing Julie Helm for fourth on Mizzou’s all-time scoring list. Frank was followed by Slaughter with 13, Dembele with 11 and Judd with 10.While A&M out-rebounded Mizzou 37-25, Pingeton was proud of her team’s fight on the glass, especially against one of the top rebounding teams in the nation.

“I think sometimes when you’re in a zone defense, it’s a little bit harder to be matched up... but I thought our girls really battled,” Pingeton said. “Is there a possession here or there where we missed a boxout? Absolutely. Obviously, {Lauren} Ware has a height advantage on us...but I would say we did a really good job.”

Despite their efforts, Mizzou will head into Sunday riding a two-game losing streak. However, Pingeton hasn’t seemed to have lost confidence.

“We’re so dang close,” Pingeton said. “It’s the second game in a row where we’ve won three out of the four quarters. Kentucky, we ran three out of four. Tonight, we win three out of four. So we’re right there. “

Pingeton also knows that dwelling on defeat isn’t an option.

“There is no time to hang our heads,” Pingeton said.

The Tigers will stay home for their next game, as they’ll host Arkansas (15-6) at 2 p.m.

missouri.statbroadcast.com