The tale of two halves was in full swing.
With a chance of redemption at their fingertips on Sunday, the Missouri Tigers let the game slip away to the Arkansas Razorbacks, losing 71-88 in CoMo. This loss extends Mizzou’s losing streak to three games, and they’re now 5-7 in the SEC.
The way Mizzou started the game didn’t seem to indicate any sign of slowing down. They shot extremely well, shut down Amber Ramirez, and showed the flashes of grittiness that’s been displayed all season long.
It was the second half, however, when the game got messy for Mizzou. After leading 41-34 to end the first half, the Tigers weren’t able to match or elevate their momentum from the first half. Arkansas came out swinging immediately. After being completely shut out in the first quarter, Ramirez found her groove and finished with 25 points. Samara Spencer and Sasha Goforth added 22 and 18, respectively. Majority of those points were from three, and was the main reason the Tigers went down hard. The Hogs outscored the Tigers 28-17 in the third quarter and 26-13 in the fourth quarter. For a more detailed account, check out the live game thread.
Mizzou is struggling mightily as of late and yesterday’s game was no exception. Here are the takeaways from the loss to Arkansas.
1. Turnovers were pretty much even.
I wrote in my keys to the game that Mizzou needed to limit turnovers while also forcing more than two like they did in their previous matchup with Arkansas. This time, Mizzou turned the ball over 14 times and forced Arkansas to turn it over 13 times. A vast improvement from a month ago.
Over half of Arkansas’ turnovers came courtesy of Mizzou’s seven steals. Those steals led to nine fast break points while Arkansas only scored 10 on the break. Mizzou missed some bunnies on the break which did not help their second half, but at least they didn’t commit 20+ turnovers.
2. Another game, another second half to forget.
Mizzou headed to the break up seven with Aijha Blackwell blocking a shot to end the first half. Until this point, the Tigers have notably shown that their second half game is pretty lethal, and before yesterday’s loss, Mizzou was 14-0 when leading at the half. Instead, they were outscored 54-30 to end the game.
So, how did that happen? Let’s start with the offense. Mizzou took really great shots. The Tigers were getting great looks in transition and from beyond-the-arc. They drew fouls down low and were awarded free throws. Unfortunately, the ball couldn’t find the bottom of the net. They missed wide-open jumpers and couldn’t convert layups at all. The worst part? They kept missing free throws. Getting easy points from the charity stripe is an easy way to change a game. But Sunday, these free passes were blown. Mizzou shot 58.3% from the line, 23.1% from three and 32.3% from the field in the second half. Very little momentum on offense led to a sluggish outing on defense.
Now, defense. How do I describe the mess of a defense Mizzou displayed in that second half? Do I start with allowing Ramirez to go off like I did above? How about Spencer and Goforth’s running up the scoreboard? I think I’ll go with the amount of shots they allowed. The second half was the Ramirez, Spencer and Goforth show on offense. In the second half, Spencer recorded 15 points on 67% shooting all coming from the inside. Ramirez’s shot blew up. She hit two shot clock buzzer-beating threes. Everything she threw up felt like it was going to fall in. She had 14 points on 67% shooting from the field and was 50% from three. Lastly, Goforth did get shaken up twice in the second half but that didn’t stop her from putting up 15 points on 75% shooting from the field and a perfect 2-2 from three. Mizzou couldn’t defend the paint when Spencer drove in. They struggled with defending Ramirez on the perimeter. When they did get great defense on her, Ramirez beat Mizzou by a sliver of a second to get a three up and in. Mizzou found themselves lost on screens, defensive rotation, and just seemed flat out lost.
Hopefully this defensive outing will be a huge learning opportunity when they visit Georgia on Thursday. Mizzou can’t let their guard down on defense against SEC teams, especially if you have the lead going into the second half.
2. Hayley Frank is back, y’all!
Oh gosh, how refreshing was it that Frank got her mojo back? When she started launching threes left and right, especially in the first half, I knew this was a sign that she’s gotten over her shooting hump. Mizzou absolutely needed her to ball out like there was no tomorrow and she did that. Frank finished with a near double-double of 21 points on 40% shooting from the field and 45% from beyond-the-arc, nine rebounds, a block and two steals. Out of her six made shots, five were from three and a few were from Jeff City. Even though it was a loss, Frank’s lights out shooting brought relief to fans and more than likely her teammates, too.
Also, she currently had 996 career points so Thursday against Georgia could be the day she joins Aijha Blackwell in the 1,000 point club.
3. Mama Dembele likes to play against Arkansas.
Did y’all know that Dembele set her career high 17 points against Arkansas in January? Did y’all know she matched her career high 17 against Arkansas yesterday? Similarly to how Haley Troup pretty much balls out against Tennessee, with the exception of their previous matchup, Dembele is starting her own trend against Arkansas.
Mama scored Mizzou’s first points of the game both with step-through lefty layups. Later on in the game she did make a three which is showing her confidence is growing. I know I’ve said that so many times this season but it’s true.
Dembele may only be 5’6 but she’s so quick in her step and ability to drive through defenses in the paint. Also, Mama is a righty but she favors her left when she soars in for layups. That is a true advantage to players who’d assume she’ll go right.
Mama finished with a final stat line of 17 points, two assists and two steals on a bit under 39% shooting. I’d give her co-player of the game along with Frank if that was a thing that’s done.
Next up, Mizzou heads down to Athens No. 21 Georgia on Thursday, February 17 at 6 pm on SECN+.