Blackwell leads Tigers to commanding victory over Saint Louis

The Tigers returned to their winning ways in Aijha Blackwell’s first start since the season opener.
Missouri freshman Aihja Blackwell shoots the ball during the Tigers' 83-58 win over Saint Louis on Dec. 5. Photo by Assistant Sports Editor Andrew Moore

The Missouri women’s basketball team has started the season tame, dropping six of its last seven games. Tuesday, it let the dogs out.

“It’s that dog mentality,” freshman Aijha Blackwell said.

Fighting to turn their season around, the Missouri Tigers (3-6, 0-0 SEC) beat up on Saint Louis (6-3, 0-0 A10) on Thursday night, walloping the Billikens by 25 points, 83-58. The Tigers couldn’t miss, shooting 51.9% from the field, 66.7% from the three-point line and 93.8% from the free throw line.

Missouri raced to a strong start on the back of Blackwell. The freshman scored the Tigers’ first six points, along with pristine passing. Blackwell started her first game since the season opener against Western Illinois and coach Robin Pingeton’s trust in her paid off early.

“When we made the extra pass, we made a bucket,” Blackwell said.

Missouri’s defense was stout in the first quarter, holding Saint Louis to 12 points on only three field goals. To end the quarter, freshman Hayley Frank drained a three to give the Tigers a 10 point cushion.

One of the major factors contributing to the Tigers’ early lead was their diligence with the ball. In the first half, they dished out 13 assists and turned the ball over only 3 times, a stark improvement for a team that coughs it up 15.8 times a game and only records 13.3 assists per game.

“We moved the ball as well as I’ve ever seen a team at Mizzou move the ball,” Pingeton said. “We just did a great job making that extra pass and we were really dialed in and playing for the jersey.”

The Tigers paced the Billikens 44-27 at the half. Missouri won with an efficient, well-rounded offensive onslaught; four Tigers scored at least six points but only Amber Smith hit double digits (10).

Missouri kept its foot on the gas to open the second half, outscoring Saint Louis 15-6 in the first five minutes of the period. They hit all three of their triples, forward Hannah Schuchts contributing two of them. The Tigers were snipers from deep, knocking down 12 of 18 threes on the night.

With two minutes remaining in the third quarter, guard Haley Troup took a hard fall on a drive, exited the game and headed to the locker room. She returned to the bench in the third quarter and remained there for the rest of the game.

“I know she returned to the bench, they said she could play if we needed her to, but [it] didn’t make sense that way,” Pingeton said.

Both of Missouri’s freshmen excelled in the third; Blackwell and Frank posted seven points apiece, fueling a commanding 29-point lead heading into the game’s final 10 minutes.

The Tigers didn’t score in the fourth quarter until about four minutes in, but it was far too little too late for the Billikens to even sniff a comeback. Missouri cruised the rest of the fourth, winning their first game back in Columbia in almost a month comfortably.

Blackwell led the way in scoring with 17 points and adding three assists, two blocks and two steals. Three other Tigers--Hayley Frank, Jordan Chavis and Amber Smith--finished in double figures.

Missouri looks to continue winning on Saturday as it takes on Kansas City.

Edited by Wilson Moore | wmoore@themaneater.com

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