Mizzou falls short against No. 15 Kentucky

Missouri moves to 21-7 on the year and 8-7 in SEC play after going on the road to face Kentucky.
Senior forward Bri Kulas of the Black Team fights for control of the ball between sophomore guard Morgan Stock and sophomore forward Michelle Hudyn of Gold Team during Tuesday's Black and Gold Scrimmage. The Gold Team took the win in a close 29-26 victory. Maneater File Photo

Close, but no cigar.

The No. 24 Missouri women’s basketball team was just two wins away from obtaining a fourth seed in the Southeastern Conference tournament. The possibility of such a high ranking to a squad who has turned heads across the country all season was in all likelihood probable with a win at No. 15 Kentucky. If the Tigers could seal a victory, it meant one of the best finishes in program history.

However, the Tigers fell in Lexington 69-59 to the No. 15 Kentucky Wildcats.

Turnovers still an issue

Missouri still have an issue in the form of the turnover bug. While there has certainly been an improvement on their 20-plus turnover nights during the middle of the season, the Tigers still more than doubled their opponent’s turnovers with 17 total. Still, the Wildcats have to be given credit. Any team with only seven turnovers in a close contest like this one usually sees the better end of the scoreboard.

However, Mizzou’s turnovers remain a persistent issue. The good news is that Thursday’s game was one of their lowest turnover totals of the season, showing signs of improvement on a nagging problem.

Signs of life

From the onset, this was going to be a tough matchup. With key wins over Mississippi State, Georgia and Duke under their belts, there is no doubt the Kentucky Wildcats are deserving of their No. 15 ranking. Their hustle, mentality and ability to score from beyond the arch, as seen from Wildcat sophomore Alexis Jennings’ performance, make them a tall task for any opponent. That’s what the Tigers ran into, trailing 39-26 at halftime.

Still, the Tigers resurged in the third quarter and punished the Wildcats with rebounds and free throws. One fantastic play that saw freshman guard Sophie Cunningham receive a football-like launch pass from junior Sierra Michaelis sent the Tigers’ sideline into pandemonium. Cunningham's 29-point performance was noteworthy and in many ways kept the Tigers in the game for most of the second half.

The third quarter saw Missouri display the type of physicality on the court needed to defeat teams like Kentucky. Even midway through the fourth, the Tigers remained persistent in their pursuit.

Still, it wouldn’t prove to be enough as Kentucky pulled away by the six-minute mark.

Where to go from here

Right now, the fourth seed is now seemingly out of reach for Mizzou as the season draws to a close. With still one winnable game left against Vanderbilt, the Tigers still have the chance to finish between fifth and ninth depending on how the other squads between them fare against each other.

Mizzou closes the season against Vanderbilt on Feb. 28 for Senior Day.

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