After being postponed hours before game time Jan. 10, Missouri women’s basketball returns to Auburn, Alabama, for a makeup date with Auburn on Sunday.
Since their originally scheduled game, neither squad has had a four-week stretch to remember. Auburn (5-12, 0-9 SEC) hasn’t won a game since Dec. 17, when it beat North Florida 94-81. Since its SEC opener against LSU, a somewhat promising 13-point loss, Auburn has been banged up during league play.
Missouri (6-7, 2-6) has also faced recent woes, going 2-4 since its abbreviated trip to Auburn last month. With both teams on a losing streak, here are two ways each team of Tigers could edge out the other.
In recent matchups, coach Robin Pingeton‘s squad has struggled from beyond the arc. Against the Razorbacks, it shot 31.8% from the 3-point line compared to Arkansas’ 53.8%. In the game before that, Missouri made just 1 of 18 attempts against Kentucky.
Although Missouri is no 3-point specialist, it has plenty of scoring ability in its starting lineup and among its reserves. That was on full display Thursday night as Lauren Hansen came off the bench to lead the Tigers’ attempted comeback. In addition to her hot hand, five other Tigers put up double figures, a scoring balance that has been consistent this season.
With sophomore Aijha Blackwell and redshirt junior Ladazhia Williams providing a presence in the paint, Missouri doesn’t necessarily have to rely on 3s to win. Despite the back-to-back losses, the past two games have been a bright spot in the Tigers’ offense.
Since the start of conference play, Pingeton has preached that her team just needs to “get over the hump” when it comes to winning nail-biting games . Missouri is 1-5 in games decided by five points or less.
Missouri needs to stay in striking distance early and not spend the majority of the game catching up to its opponent. Having that mentality will be key against Auburn.
“We’re still trying to figure out how to play to win at the end of those close games,” Pingeton said. “The attention to detail, the discipline that goes into it, but also helping them understand that it is a 40-minute game and all of these possessions over the course of the game add up. I’ve seen a lot of good things and a lot of things we’ve got to improve on, so I’m really looking forward to what’s to come this month.”
The originally scheduled matchup between Auburn and Missouri would’ve been the return of one of Auburn’s key scorers in forward Unique Thompson.
After being away for three games in January due to medical issues, Thompson has hit the ground running. She averages 17.3 points and is a bully in the post. At 6-foot-3, she can put her hip into a defender and get to the basket quickly.
Her offensive presence will be key in frustrating Missouri’s defense. In addition to her aggressive scoring, she grabs rebounds similarly to Blackwell, averaging 13.6 boards per game. Most of them come at the defensive end, with her best performance coming against Belmont on Dec. 20, when she grabbed 14 defensive rebounds. Thompson also averages over two steals per game.
Like Missouri, Auburn has its shining star despite dark days offensively. Utilizing Thompson’s size and senior confidence will be essential in beating a much younger Missouri squad.
Be more efficient than MU
It’s no secret that Missouri has been struggling offensively in the past three games, shooting poorly beyond the arc and decently from the field. For Auburn, this will be a weakness it will need to exploit in order to come out victorious for the first time in conference play.
Redshirt sophomore Honesty Scott-Grayson will be a go-to. In her team’s loss to South Carolina on Thursday, she scored 15 points while shooting 42.9% from the field. That kind of solid performance is common for the young guard, who has stepped up in facilitating Auburn’s offense.
Scott-Grayson shares playmaking duties with guard Romi Levy, a freshman from Herzliya, Israel. Since her collegiate debut, she has averaged a solid 6.1 points and has snagged 29 steals this season. With Levy and Scott-Grayson running the backcourt and Thompson bruising in the paint, Auburn is capable of outscoring Missouri.
When Missouri goes through its dry spells, which often this season has been during the first half of games, Auburn will need to apply pressure and force the visiting Tigers to play catch-up.
Tipoff is set for noon Sunday at Auburn Arena. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network.