How do you measure progress in a season marred by losses?
Coming off the Sophie Cunningham era, Mizzou women’s basketball was always likely to take a step back as the unofficial Mayor of Columbia headed for the WNBA. I don’t think anyone envisioned the steep collapse which happened in 2019-20 when the Mizzou women went 9-22 and won just 5 conference games.
Last year, the win total stayed the same — even in conference play — but the COVID shortened season saw them play in 9 fewer games overall and two fewer games in conference. But the ladies lost 8 conference games by double digits two years ago, and this past season just two of their losses came by double digits. It felt like they were more competitive and the numbers backed it up.
Robin Pingeton made a decision to endure a few growing pains by throwing her two prized freshmen into the lineup to play a LOT of minutes, and Aijha Blackwell and Hayley Frank played a lot and shot the ball a lot. Then last offseason Pingeton upgraded the roster around them and the experience around them, and you saw things improve.
So now we’re going into year three of the Frank-Blackwell era, and expecting another jump. Are the pieces around them enough?
So Missouri is moving forward after losing just three players:
Shug Dickson — R-Senior, Guard Shannon Dufficy — R-Senior, Forward Nadia Green — Senior, Guard
One of the real bright spots for the Tigers last season was the spark plug role which Shug Dickson played off the bench. She averaged over 10 points and sported a nifty 1.5:1 assist to turnover ratio in 23 minutes a game. Dickson entered the transfer portal leaving a bit of a hole to fill in the ball handling department.
Dufficy stepped in after a transfer from Utah State and became a staple off the bench. She was a lights out shooter, hitting on nearly 40% of her 3fga. And Nadia Green was largely a role player for her four years.
- Haley Troup — R-Junior, Guard
- LaDazhia Williams — R-Junior, Forward
- Aijha Blackwell — Sophomore, Guard
- Hayley Frank — Sophomore, Forward
- Lauren Hansen — Sophomore, Guard
- Micah Linthacum — R-Freshman, Forward
- Mama Dembele — Freshman, Guard
- Jayla Kelly — Freshman, Forward
- Sara-Rose Smith — Freshman, Guard
A really solid returning core of players, with over 3⁄4 of the minutes coming back and three double-digit scorers equals over 80% of the returning scoring. The Tigers showed this year they have a diverse group of players with a variety of skillsets, but they’re all capable of shooting the ball. On the season, the team shot over 38% from deep and returns most of that shooting minus Dufficy and Dickson’s 49 / 131 (37.4%)… so I’d expect a good shooting team next year again.
— Mizzou Basketball (@MizzouWBB) April 23, 2021
There are some key areas where the returners need to improve and we’ll get into the statistical data in the coming days/weeks (when I get around to crunching the numbers… sorry). But the basis of the situation is Missouri is returning a lot of talent, points and SHOOTING.
So how are they filling out the rest of the roster?
All your CROOTS…
- Skylah Travis — R-Freshman, Forward (transfer – Old Dominion)
- Kiyah Dorroh — Freshman, 4-star 6’0 Wing (#47 ESPN)
- Izzy Higginbottom — Freshman, 3-star 5’7 Guard
- Da’Necia Trusty — Freshman, 3-star 6’3 Forward
- Sarah Linthacum — Freshman, 3-star 6’0 Forward
The prize recruit here is Kiyah Dorroh, a top 50 player with all kinds of offers around the country. She’s an athletic wing/combo forward who excels in transition and is comfortable attacking the rim.
I’m probably as big of a fan of Izzy Higginbottom as anyone in this group because I don’t think you can ever discount scoring, and she can score…. moreso Higginbottom is a bucket. Scoring 57 points is a lot.
— Mizzou Basketball (@MizzouWBB) April 16, 2021
Skylah Travis didn’t play this past year due to an injury, but she averaged nearly 18 points and 10 rebounds her senior year in high school. And considering the Tigers’ biggest weakness over the last few years has been consistent inside play, Travis can help with that. If she can’t, you hope Da’Necia Trusty and Sarah Linthacum can help as well. Both were interior players in high school.
The lineups worked last year because Pingeton largely adopted an NBA-like approach around a really skilled forward in Ladazhia Williams. Surround her with shooters and suddenly the offense is a bit more efficient.
Just how efficient? Again, we’ll crunch the numbers soon, but it was pretty good. Importing a high volume scorer of a point guard to support Mama Dembele, who’s proven to be a good passer and tone setter but not much of a scorer, along with a playmaking forward like Dorroh to supplement the playmaking of Blackwell, all surrounded with shooters, and you can see where Missouri might be a bit of a sleeper to make a step forward next year.
So with 14 of their 15 scholarships accounted for, it’s unlikely Pingeton adds to her class… but you can see the basis of a depth chart already formulating and this could be a really intriguing roster. It’s up to the head coach to put things together which can get this talented group over the top.