COLUMBIA — As temperatures continued to plummet outside Mizzou Arena on Sunday afternoon, the Missouri women's basketball team began its conference home opener with uncharacteristically cold shooting. The Tigers connected on just two field goals in the first 10 minutes and shot 26.9 percent during the first half on the way to their first Southeastern conference loss of the season, 69-66, to Arkansas.
Arkansas came into Sunday's competition with the nation's best defense, holding opponents to just 45.2 points per game. However, the Razorbacks, who dropped their first game of the season on Thursday to South Carolina, showed signs of vulnerability on defense without junior forward Jhasmin Bowen. The team's leading rebounder did not make the trip to Columbia because of an injury.
Here's a quick recap of the some notable scores from the opening week of Southeastern Conference play.
Thursday Jan., 2
#16 LSU 80 #5 Tennessee 77
#13 South Carolina 55 Arkansas 51
Vanderbilt 66 #19 Georgia 58
Sunday Jan., 5
#5 Tennessee 85 #19 Georgia 70
Florida 83 #6 Kentucky 73
#13 South Carolina 76 Vanderbilt 66
The Tigers were unable to take advantage of open opportunities in the post.
"I give Arkansas a lot of credit," sophomore guard Lianna Doty said. "They played great defense, but we had a lot of open looks that we just didn't knock down."
During the post-gamenews conference, coach Robin Pingeton said her staff noted 21 missed shots in the paint throughout the game.
"We worked hard and felt like we were kind of beating ourselves there a little bit in the first half," Pingeton said.
Freshman forward Jessica Jackson led the Arkansas offense throughout the game. Jackson, who scored seven of Arkansas' first nine points, would go on to score a game-high 22 points.
The Razorbacks led by as many as nine points in the first half, before a late Missouri run closed the gap to three points at halftime.
While addressing her team at halftime, Pingeton stressed the importance of an aggressive offensive approach. The Tigers followed her game plan and jumped out to an early lead in the second half by taking advantage of Arkansas' tight perimeter defense with dribble penetration.
"I felt like we had some more energy and bounce going into that second half," Pingeton said.
The teams traded baskets and the lead for the majority of the second half, until Arkansas guards Melissa Wolff and Calli Berna helped the Razorbacks pull ahead with less than three minutes to play. Arkansas held off Missouri with stellar free-throw shooting down the stretch, connecting on 21 of 22 free throw attempts in the second half.
The game ended with a bittersweet moment for junior guard Morgan Eye, who scored 18 points in the contest. With time expiring and Missouri trailing by six, Eye hoisted up a deep shot. As her 226th career 3-pointer sailed through the hoop, Eye tied Alyssa Hollins for the Missouri career record. One second later, the final horn blew and cemented Missouri's first home loss of the season. During non-conference play, Missouri was a perfect 8-0 at Mizzou Arena and averaged a 22.5 point margin of victory.
"We are not deflated," Pingeton said. "We have another great opportunity in front of us with Georgia."
Missouri will host Georgia at 7 p.m. on Thursday. The Bulldogs began SEC play ranked #19, but suffered losses to Tennessee and Vanderbilt in their first conference games. If Georgia remains in the top 25 in next week, they will be Missouri's first ranked opponent this season. Due to Sunday's severe weather conditions, tickets for the Arkansas contest will be redeemable for admission to the game against Georgia.
Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.