The Maneater

First-half mistakes lead to loss for No. 16 Mizzou women’s basketball in opener.

Turnovers and low field percentages proved too much to overcome in Friday’s season opener.

Amber Smith, 23, pushes past Auburn defender Jessica Jones, 23, at Mizzou Arena on Jan. 26, 2017. Maneater File Photo

Expectations were high for Mizzou women’s basketball heading into Friday’s matchup against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

Entering as the No. 16-ranked team in the nation, the Tigers looked like a favorite to beat WKU. However, first-half mistakes were too much to overcome, as Mizzou lost its regular season opener to Western Kentucky, 79-76, in the Hawkeye Challenge in Iowa City, Iowa.

WKU’s duo of senior forward Tashia Brown and redshirt sophomore forward Dee Givens was too much for the Tigers to handle. Givens had 20 points for the Hilltoppers, including nine from beyond the arc, and Brown had 30 points, as well as six steals. Givens and Brown’s point totals combined to account for a little under two-thirds (63.3 percent) of Western Kentucky’s total points.

The Hilltoppers were also able to capitalize on Mizzou’s mistakes. Western Kentucky had 22 points off turnovers, with 16 of those points coming in the first half.

The Tigers struggled to hold onto the ball throughout, with 19 turnovers. With just 18 assists, this was the Tigers’ worst assist-to-turnover ratio since last year’s season-ending loss to Florida State in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Turnovers, as well as low shooting percentages, led to trouble for the Tiger offense. As a team, Mizzou was 5 for 18 (28 percent) on three-point attempts. It was also 13 for 19 (68 percent) from the free-throw line.

One bright spot in the season opener for Mizzou was the performance from All-SEC guard Sophie Cunningham. The junior had 25 points for the Tigers as well as six rebounds and two steals before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.

At the end of the first half, Cunningham hit a buzzer-beating layup to give her 1,001 career points, making her the second-fastest player in program history to reach 1,000 career points.

After the season-opening loss, Mizzou’s next game will be against Quinnipiac in the second game of the Hawkeye Challenge on Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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