SEC Tournament success hinges on frontcourt for women’s basketball

The frontcourt duo of Jordan Frericks and Cierra Porter will be critical to the Tigers’ postseason success in the conference and NCAA tournaments.
Maneater File Photo Maneater File Photo

Junior Cierra Porter kicked the ball out to redshirt junior Lauren Aldridge for a 3, then it was redshirt senior Jordan Frericks’ turn to kick the ball out to Aldridge for a triple.

Porter and Frericks got the offense started for the Tigers with three assists to Aldridge on Missouri’s first three possessions and continued to dominate inside in Missouri’s 83-68 win over Vanderbilt.

Just like in Thursday night’s game, the twin towers in the frontcourt will be vital for the Tigers to succeed in the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Nashville, Tennessee, this March.

The two tournament favorites will be No. 2 Mississippi State and No. 7 South Carolina. South Carolina has 6-foot-5 senior A'ja Wilson, an All-American and two-time SEC player of the year, while Mississippi State has 6-foot-7 junior Teaira McCowan, the SEC’s leading rebounder, up front.

For this team to take the next step and compete with the conference’s two heavyweights, Frericks and Porter, who are 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-4, respectively, will have to find a way to slow down Wilson and McCowan.

In the Tigers’ 83-74 win over South Carolina in January, Porter and Frericks were able to slow down Wilson. The duo forced Wilson, a 22.9 points per game scorer, into foul trouble and held her to only 8 points.

But before the 11th-ranked Tigers worry about the Bulldogs or Gamecocks, they will have to deal with four other ranked teams right behind the frontrunners: No. 15 Tennessee, No. 19 Georgia, No. 17 Texas A&M and No. 24 LSU.

The Tigers play A&M on Sunday and will have to deal with 6-foot-5 senior Khaalia Hillsman, a 59.7 percent shooter who averages 14.5 points per game, as well as junior Anriel Howard, the SEC’s second-leading rebounder.

A win in College Station will determine if Missouri gets a double-bye in the SEC Tournament, where it would play Tennessee, LSU or Georgia in the quarterfinals.

LSU is the only team in that group without a major post presence, led by guards Chloe Jackson and Raigyne Louis. Tennessee has Mercedes Russell, a 6-foot-6 redshirt senior who is second in the SEC in field goal percentage, while Georgia is led by 6-foot-2 Mackenzie Engram and 6-foot-3 Caliya Robinson.

This means the Tigers will most likely match up with a team that relies mostly on post play as they get deep into the conference tournament.

Other than defensive responsibility, Porter and Frericks will also have a big offensive responsibility.

They are both great passers out of the post, and they are two of the main facilitators in a Tiger offense that plays inside-out, relying on post players to kick the ball out to find open shooters on the wing or to set up an extra pass to players in the corner.

Frericks was an assist shy of a triple-double Thursday night, setting up open 3-pointers for teammates on the perimeter and feeding cutters inside for easy layups.

Finding open shooters is what makes the Tiger offense go, and Frericks and Porter have a lot of options on the outside; Missouri is second in the SEC in 3-pointers made and 3-point percentage.

Junior Sophie Cunningham leads the SEC in 3-point percentage at 46.9 percent while sophomores Jordan Chavis and Amber Smith are 10th and 11th in the conference from behind the arc, at 39.8 and 37.8 percent, respectively.

Cunningham is the main offensive option and the most important player on the team, but no matter what the matchup is, Frericks and Porter will need to have strong all-around performances for Missouri to succeed in Nashville.

Edited by Bennett Durando |

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