Missouri basketball gives sloppy performance, drops first game to Nebraska

Aijha Blackwell’s 21 points weren’t enough to push Missouri past Nebraska.

In its second straight overtime matchup, the Missouri women’s basketball team (1-1, 0-0 SEC) fell to its former Big 12 foe, the Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten).

The game was close, yet sloppy for the Tigers. They trailed for the entire game up until the end of the fourth quarter, where they gave up a three point lead with 11 seconds remaining.

After both of the Tigers’ freshmen, Aijha Blackwell and Hayley Frank, struggled in their season opener, coach Robin Pingeton opened the game with an all-upperclassmen starting five. Redshirt senior Hannah Schuchts and junior Elle Brown took their place in the starting lineup.

At the 6:35 mark of the first quarter, Blackwell checked into the game. She immediately made her presence felt, knifing to the rim and drawing a foul, then firing a no-look pick and roll pass a possession later.

Minutes later, Frank entered the game. On her first possession, Blackwell dished the ball to her for a three. The Tigers hung around in the first half, keeping the score close. They trailed Nebraska 31-29 at the break.

Schuchts kept the Tigers afloat in the first half. She scored eight points on perfect efficiency, including two triples, along with three rebounds, two blocks and a steal.

Her defense was fantastic all night, repeatedly covering gaps in the Tiger defense. She held 6-foot-5 Nebraska center Kate Cain scoreless in the first half. Cain finished with two points on 1-8 shooting.

In the third quarter, Blackwell finally began to settle in. She attacked the rim more and the Tigers involved her in off-ball actions to generate her easy looks at the rim. By the end of the quarter, she was up to 11 points, shooting 3-4 from the field.

By the fourth quarter, Blackwell seemed to have forgotten about her debut performance. Late in the game, she took control.

“She’s a special player,” Nebraska head coach Amy Williams said.

The Tigers trailed 67-58 with four and a half minutes remaining. Blackwell checked back into the game. At this moment, she established herself as the dominant force she looked like in exhibition play.

With two and a half minutes remaining, Blackwell calmly dribbled into a contested pull-up triple to tie the game at 68. A possession later, she drove baseline, dumping the ball down to senior guard Amber Smith for an and-one, giving the Tigers their first lead of the game, 71-69.

“Game one was pretty frustrating on defense, foul trouble I got in,” Blackwell said. “This game I just took it slow, I didn’t really try to rush anything. Shots weren’t falling at first, but my teammates were there to pick me up, so I think that’s what helped me this game.”

Fellow senior guard Jordan Chavis and Smith both hit two free throws, putting the Tigers up 76-73. With 11 seconds left to play, Blackwell stole a pass and drew a foul. She missed both free throws and Nebraska’s Sam Haiby drilled a corner three, sending the game to overtime tied 76-76.

“She’s going to show some maturity and understand that it’s bigger than that one possesssion and certainly an area that she’s going to work on,” Pingeton said. “No doubt about it.”

Haiby diced up Missouri’s defense all game. She finished with a career-high 28 points, shooting 11-19 from the field and 3-7 from deep.

Missouri couldn’t hold on any longer in overtime, falling behind the Cornhuskers and eventually dropping their first game of the season, 90-85.

It was a sloppy performance all around for the Tigers. They shot 36.5% from the field, 28.6% from three and 52.4% on layups. They turned the ball over 19 times and only totaled 12 assists. Smith and Chavis shot a combined 7-29 from the field.

Their defensive communication was spotty all night, encapsulated by Haiby’s wide open game-tying three.

“Our defense is just unacceptable right now,” Pingeton said.

Blackwell bounced back from her disappointing season opener. She led the Tigers in scoring with 21 points, adding four rebounds, four assists and a steal. The Tigers’ free throw shooting kept them in the game, shooting 31-38 at the line.

“I thought they did a really good job of finding themselves ways to get to the free throw line,” Williams said.

Missouri looks to bounce back against Northern Iowa on Wednesday at Mizzou Arena.

Edited by Wilson Moore | wmoore@themaneater.com

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