The Maneater

Women’s basketball needs to correct offensive slump for NCAA Tournament

Missouri averaged 50 points in its two SEC Tournament games.

The Missouri women's basketball team huddles up before a game on Feb. 1, 2018.

Junior Sophie Cunningham could only stand red-eyed in the locker room after her team’s loss to Georgia at the Southeastern Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament on Friday night.

After a 3-for-17 shooting performance, she credited her teammates for being able to pick up the slack when teams are able to take her away on offense.

“My teammates really stepped up and I know they can,” Cunningham said. “If you’re gonna take me away then there are going to be other threats on the floor.”

That has been the case for most of the year. Missouri sophomore Amber Smith carried the offense when Cunningham struggled versus Ole Miss in the first round of the SEC Tournament and redshirt senior Jordan Frericks has been able to carry the load offensively when Smith or Cunningham have been unable to do so.

Junior Cierra Porter has also shown the ability to be a top option on offense, matching her career-high 27 points from last season in a win over Florida on Feb. 5.

However, Missouri’s offense, which is 18th in the country in field goal percentage, has been in a slump the last few weeks.

Going into its season finale against Texas A&M, Missouri averaged 71.4 points per game. Then the Tigers ended the season by scoring 63 in a blowout loss to the Aggies and averaged 50 points in their two games in the SEC Tournament, beating Ole Miss 59-50 and losing 55-41 to Georgia.

In the loss to Georgia, Cunningham wasn’t the only player to struggle. Frericks and Porter both shot 4-for-13 from the field.

A reason for Missouri’s offensive struggles has been the Tigers’ inability to handle pressure.

In the loss to Georgia, Bulldogs guard Taja Cole applied suffocating pressure after Missouri’s offense crossed the half-court line.

Missouri’s offense starts with quick post feeds and quick ball movement on the perimeter. When guards couldn’t handle pressure, they were forced to over dribble or pick up their dribble far from the basket.

Time and time again, Missouri guards weren’t able to break the pressure and were forced to pick up their dribble over 30 feet from the basket, stalling the offense and forcing the Tigers to rush contested looks at the end of the shot clock.

Georgia is ninth in the country and first in the SEC in field goal percentage defense, so Missouri probably won’t play a defense as stout as the Bulldogs’ in the first few rounds of the NCAA Tournament. However, Missouri has struggled with handling pressure and scoring against many of the tournament-level teams the Tigers have played in the SEC.

In addition to losing twice to Georgia, Missouri has struggled all year versus the top teams in the conference. The Tigers are 2-6 versus Louisiana State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Georgia and Texas A&M, the six other SEC teams projected to make the tournament, according to Charlie Creme’s latest bracket prediction for ESPN.

The difference in the outcomes for Missouri has been scoring. In Missouri’s two wins, they scored 83 in a home win over South Carolina on Jan. 7 and scored 77 in a win over Tennessee on Feb. 18 at Mizzou Arena.

In the six losses, Missouri has averaged just over 54 points per game and failed to score over 65 points.

Against Mississippi State, Missouri went out to a 34-25 halftime lead before guard Morgan William and the Bulldogs stifled Missouri by holding it to 19 second-half points to come back and beat the Tigers.

William, similar to Georgia’s guards, provided instant pressure to Tigers after they crossed half court, causing Missouri to stall and have to keep the ball on the perimeter and force jump shots late in the shot clock. Missouri shot 48.15 percent from the field in the first half, but after William and Mississippi State brought pressure in the second half the Tigers shot 31.82 percent in the second half.

The key for NCAA Tournament play will be making sure Missouri can speed up the game and speed up its offense. Guards will need to be able to get down the court and feed the post quickly, giving Missouri’s offensive sets time to develop.

For Missouri to go on a deep run in March, it will need to bust out of its offensive slump and get back to playing offensively efficient basketball.

_Edited by Joe Noser | jnoser@themaneater.comJunior Sophie Cunningham could only stand red-eyed in the locker room after her team’s loss to Georgia at the Southeastern Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament on Friday night.

After a 3-for-17 shooting performance, she credited her teammates for being able to pick up the slack when teams are able to take her away on offense.

“My teammates really stepped up and I know they can,” Cunningham said. “If you’re gonna take me away then there are going to be other threats on the floor.”

That has been the case for most of the year. Missouri sophomore Amber Smith carried the offense when Cunningham struggled versus Ole Miss in the first round of the SEC Tournament and redshirt senior Jordan Frericks has been able to carry the load offensively when Smith or Cunningham have been unable to do so.

Junior Cierra Porter has also shown the ability to be a top option on offense, matching her career-high 27 points from last season in a win over Florida on Feb. 5.

However, Missouri’s offense, which is 18th in the country in field goal percentage, has been in a slump the last few weeks.

Going into its season finale against Texas A&M, Missouri averaged 71.4 points per game. Then the Tigers ended the season by scoring 63 in a blowout loss to the Aggies and averaged 50 points in their two games in the SEC Tournament, beating Ole Miss 59-50 and losing 55-41 to Georgia.

In the loss to Georgia, Cunningham wasn’t the only player to struggle. Frericks and Porter both shot 4-for-13 from the field.

A reason for Missouri’s offensive struggles has been the Tigers’ inability to handle pressure.

In the loss to Georgia, Bulldogs guard Taja Cole applied suffocating pressure after Missouri’s offense crossed the half-court line.

Missouri’s offense starts with quick post feeds and quick ball movement on the perimeter. When guards couldn’t handle pressure, they were forced to over dribble or pick up their dribble far from the basket.

Time and time again, Missouri guards weren’t able to break the pressure and were forced to pick up their dribble over 30 feet from the basket, stalling the offense and forcing the Tigers to rush contested looks at the end of the shot clock.

Georgia is ninth in the country and first in the SEC in field goal percentage defense, so Missouri probably won’t play a defense as stout as the Bulldogs’ in the first few rounds of the NCAA Tournament. However, Missouri has struggled with handling pressure and scoring against many of the tournament-level teams the Tigers have played in the SEC.

In addition to losing twice to Georgia, Missouri has struggled all year versus the top teams in the conference. The Tigers are 2-6 versus Louisiana State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Georgia and Texas A&M, the six other SEC teams projected to make the tournament, according to Charlie Creme’s latest bracket prediction for ESPN.

The difference in the outcomes for Missouri has been scoring. In Missouri’s two wins, they scored 83 in a home win over South Carolina on Jan. 7 and scored 77 in a win over Tennessee on Feb. 18 at Mizzou Arena.

In the six losses, Missouri has averaged just over 54 points per game and failed to score over 65 points.

Against Mississippi State, Missouri went out to a 34-25 halftime lead before guard Morgan William and the Bulldogs stifled Missouri by holding it to 19 second-half points to come back and beat the Tigers.

William, similar to Georgia’s guards, provided instant pressure to Tigers after they crossed half court, causing Missouri to stall and have to keep the ball on the perimeter and force jump shots late in the shot clock. Missouri shot 48.15 percent from the field in the first half, but after William and Mississippi State brought pressure in the second half the Tigers shot 31.82 percent in the second half.

The key for NCAA Tournament play will be making sure Missouri can speed up the game and speed up its offense. Guards will need to be able to get down the court and feed the post quickly, giving Missouri’s offensive sets time to develop.

For Missouri to go on a deep run in March, it will need to bust out of its offensive slump and get back to playing offensively efficient basketball.

Edited by Joe Noser | jnoser@themaneater.com

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