Missouri can’t overcome sluggish third quarter, loses 52-41 to No. 15 Kentucky

Missouri turned the ball over 20 times in its loss to the Wildcats.

An offensive rebound by Kentucky’s freshman star Rhyne Howard with 41 seconds to play sealed the deal on a 52-41 win for the No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats (17-3, 4-2).

It was No. 25 Missouri’s (15-6, 4-3) second loss on the road to a top-25 team in as many games. Offensive rebounding was the theme of the game for the Wildcats, who totaled 16 rebounds of that variety scoring 17 second chance points. That was compared to just three offensive rebounds for Missouri, scoring a mere three second chance points.

Missouri started the game slow yet consistent, never trailing in the first half. It lead 21-18 at the break, shooting 61 percent from the field and draining four 3s. Senior Sophie Cunningham scored 11 of her 17 points in the half and ended the game with six rebounds.

Both teams were sloppy in the first half as Missouri turned the ball over eight times and Kentucky nine. While Kentucky cleaned up its act in the second half, things only got worse for the Tigers.

Missouri ended up with 20 turnovers in the contest, Kentucky scoring 21 points off of Missouri’s mistakes.

The game slipped from the Tigers’ grasp in the third quarter, when the Wildcats outscored Missouri 18-7. Kentucky grabbed its first lead of the game at the 8:54 mark of the quarter and never relinquished that lead. Kentucky senior Taylor Murray scored 13 of her 21 points in the frame.

Emotions got the best of Missouri coach Robin Pingeton in the quarter, as she picked up a technical foul. Following an offensive foul called on Cunningham, Pingeton was visibly upset and screaming on the court. She took too many steps outside of her coaching box and received a foul for it.

The foul didn’t seem to spur the Tigers to change their game plan, as the Wildcats continued to dominate. Murray was leading the team while their other star, Howard, was shut down by Missouri. Cunningham guarded her throughout the contest, frustrating the freshman into forcing up shots. Howard scored her lowest scoring total of the year with just 4 points.

For Missouri, no one stepped up to score consistently for the Tigers behind Cunningham. They had no other player in double figures as junior Jordan Roundtree was second in Tiger scoring with 7 points. Junior Amber Smith was held scoreless, shooting 0-3 from the field and playing 25 minutes.

Missouri made a change to the starting lineup for Kentucky as senior Cierra Porter made her first start since returning to the team in December. She played 19 minutes, scoring zero points and totaling three rebounds.

Missouri returns home for another SEC game against Auburn on Sunday Jan. 27. It is Missouri’s “We Back Pat” night, showing support and honoring the life of long-time Tennessee coach Pat Summitt. Tip-off is slated for 2 p.m. CST.

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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