Turnovers and lack of size doom Tigers in SEC Tournament

MU turned the ball over 54 times in three games and couldn’t overcome the size of Mississippi State in the semifinals.
Designed by Corey Hadfield

It was a successful SEC Tournament for the No. 5 Missouri Tigers (23-9, 10-6), as they went 2-1 in a very competitive field. Each of the first two games were redemption wins for the Tigers, as Florida beat them on Jan. 13 and Kentucky beat them on Jan. 24.

After both of those redemption wins for Missouri, it was then Missouri’s opponent — the top-seeded Mississippi State Bulldogs — looking for redemption. The Bulldogs were upset by Missouri on Feb. 14, 75-67. Following the theme of the first two games, the team that was looking for redemption got it, and the Bulldogs bested the Tigers 71-65.

Florida

Missouri cruised to a 87-56 win over the Florida Gators (8-23, 3-13) on Thursday, advancing to the quarterfinals of SEC Tournament.

Missouri was able to use all 12 players, each of them scoring. The Tigers shot 31-59 from the floor and made 13 triples, clearing their season average of eight per game.

The Tigers were lead by junior Amber Smith with 18 points. The junior was one rebound shy of a double-double with nine boards. Senior Sophie Cunningham had 13 points and redshirt freshman Haley Troup added 10 points off the bench, along with redshirt junior Hannah Schuchts adding 16 points. Schuchts went 4-6 from behind the arc and blocked three shots.

The Tigers received a season-high 40 points from their bench. Missouri won the rebounding battle 38-27 and turned the ball over a mere 11 times. All eight ties and seven lead changes came in the more competitive first half.

Missouri closed the first half on a 12-2 run, and never trailed in the second half. The Tigers ensured they wouldn’t have any troubles putting the game away by opening the fourth quarter on a 16-0 run.

Kentucky

The Tigers then moved on to face the No. 4 seeded Kentucky Wildcats (24-7, 11-5). Missouri won 70-68 in overtime to clinch its first semifinal berth in the SEC Tournament in program history.

Cunningham scored a game-high 29 points. It was her best SEC Tournament performance, as coming into the contest she was averaging just 9.8 points per game in tournament-play.

The Tigers didn’t make it easy on themselves, turning the ball over 26 times resulting in 22 Wildcat points. Kentucky shot a mere 32 percent from the floor and did not make a 3-point shot.

Missouri shot 48 percent from the field and converted 24-of-29 from the charity stripe. Behind Cunningham, the Tigers were led by Smith with 12 points and redshirt senior Lauren Aldridge with 8 points.

It was a game of runs, as Missouri opened the game with an 11-2 lead. The Wildcats cut the lead to 15-7 at the end of the frame. The second quarter was even at 12 points for each team, but MU closed the half on a 10-2 run to have a 27-19 advantage at the break.

In the second half, Kentucky’s offense started to heat up. The Wildcats opened the half on a 6-0 run and outscored the Tigers 21-19 in the third quarter. Kentucky got its first lead at the six-minute mark in the final frame at 51-50. The Big Blue used a 13-9 fourth quarter to push the game into overtime.

Kentucky’s largest lead of the game occurred in the extra frame, as it was up 63-61. Missouri then used a 6-0 run to take a 67-63 lead that it would not relinquish. Missouri survived and advanced to the semifinals.

Mississippi State

Missouri’s quarterfinal win brought a date with the top-seeded Mississippi State Bulldogs (29-2, 15-1).

The Tigers upset the Bulldogs on the road 75-67 on Feb. 14, but the rematch would not prove as kind to the Tigers, who lost 71-56 to the Bulldogs. Mississippi State dominated the glass, winning the rebounding battle 32-23. The Bulldogs also dominated in the paint, where they scored 40 points.

The only answer Missouri had was Cunningham, who dropped a game-high 33 points. She is now Missouri’s all-time leading scorer with 2,157 points. No other Tiger was in double digits during the game, as the closest to Cunningham was junior Jordan Chavis with 6 points.

Bulldog senior Teaira McCowan had a double-double with 27 points and 16 rebounds. Behind her, graduate student Anriel Howard had 19 points and senior Jordan Danberry had 10 points. Mississippi State moves on to its fourth straight SEC Championship game.

The Bulldogs’ press looked to be too much for the Tigers, as many possessions ended in turnovers for Missouri. It turned the ball over 17 times resulting in 14 Bulldog points. Missouri never led after the first quarter, and was down by as much as 16 points during the game.

The Tigers will now have some time off before NCAA Tournament “Selection Monday,” which will be on Monday, March 18. The Tigers are currently predicted as a No. 5 seed in ESPN’s Bracketology.

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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