Turnovers costing Missouri women's basketball in big games

Missouri’s hot three-point shooting must stay consistent to make up for its SEC-worst turnover margin.

Late to the play, senior Morgan Stock and junior Jordan Frericks attempt to block Georgia senior Marjorie Butler's shot during the basketball game on Feb. 4 in Mizzou Arena.

It’s hard to win games when you’re constantly giving the other team the ball. There’s a word for that: turnovers.

In most sports and across many leagues, turnovers are a primary ingredient for a losing team. Mathematics, analytics and even common sense will tell anyone watching that if you give the ball away, it’s hard to win.

Unfortunately, as it stands, the Missouri women’s basketball team — despite starting this season with the best record in program history and even achieving a top-25 ranking — has a turnover problem.

Let’s start with the numbers. In the last seven games, the Tigers have averaged 18 turnovers per game. They have 435 turnovers on the season and have a turnover margin of -2.13, which ties for 269th nationally and ranks last in the Southeastern Conference, well behind 13th-place Arkansas (0.52).

Another factor is the rebounding battle. When outrebounded, the Tigers are 1-5 against their opponents. In Sunday night’s 52-42 loss against the No. 11 Mississippi State Bulldogs, the Tigers allowed a season-high 27 turnovers.

So, how does a team that was billed two weeks ago as a Southeastern Conference title contender, that started 13-0 and now owns an 18-6 record, have such a turnover problem?

It’s the way the Tigers play.

When watching Missouri, there’s never a boring moment. Their ability to hit from long range is surgical in precision at times. Their brutal physicality on the boards is matched with the possession of two of the brightest young freshmen in college basketball.

While these characteristics may sell seats and win shootouts, it also reinforces the notion that the teams who win by the three also lose by the three.

Again, this can be supported with numbers. Mizzou has been known to shoot early and often, and when that shooting is accurate, it usually means victory. The Tigers are ranked in the top 50 nationally with 3-pointers per game and have over 500 3-point attempts on the season. That’s over 100 more attempts on the season than their opponents.

“You have to get up on them because of how great of 3-point shooters they are,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. “You’d rather give up the two than the three and you really worry about their three-point shooting.”

This style of play isn't necessarily bad. In Missouri’s case, it often seems appropriate. The Tigers have eight players shooting over 30 percent from beyond the arc.

Then there’s the “heating up” factor.

The spark of a perfectly timed 3-point shot, as many Missouri games have shown, can turn the tide of any contest. Game in and game out, this has come to play more in the Tigers’ favor than anything else.

Still, with high peaks come low valleys, and that is being seen on the court of late. The recent inability to hit threes has led to consistent turnovers and seems to be the reason behind the Tigers’ dip in performance.

“All we can do is watch tape and help our kids understand the importance of each possession,” Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said about the turnover problem. “We will go back to the drawing board to do that."

Edited by Alec Lewis | alewis@themaneater.com

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