COLUMBIA — Last January, Georgia had the honors of welcoming the Missouri women's basketball program into the Southeastern Conference. The nationally-ranked Lady Bulldogs took full advantage of the opportunity, handing the Tigers a 31-point loss.
When Missouri faced off against No. 25 Georgia on Thursday, many expected a similar outcome.
Missouri Tigers vs. No. 9 Kentucky Wildcats
Where: Memorial Colisiem Lexington, Ky.
When: 4 p.m.
Radio: KTGR 100.5 FM, 103.1 FM, and 1580 AM
"Last year, in our opening game in the SEC, we felt like they kind of took us out to the woodshed a little bit," Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said. "But, we've got a new team, and it's a new season."
A new defensive scheme and an efficient Missouri offense showed the difference a year can make as the Tigers topped Georgia 66-56 at Mizzou Arena on Thursday. Days after beating their first ranked opponent this season, the Tigers will look to upset another SEC foe when they square off against No. 9 Kentucky in Lexington, Ky. on Sunday at 4 p.m.
Missouri's Thursday night victory over Georgia started with defense. Pingeton made an early-game adjustment, shifting her team into a 2-3 zone after ceding some early buckets in the paint. Missouri remained in the zone look for the entire second half while limiting the Lady Bulldogs to just 22.2 percent shooting in the half and forcing a season-high 32 3-point attempts by Georgia.
"Whenever they were driving, we were able to play inside out, clogging up the lane and making them take those 3-pointers," junior guard Morgan Eye said.
Kentucky's offense leads the SEC with 90.2 points per game and will test any Missouri defensive scheme. The Wildcats balanced attack includes four scorers that average better than ten points per contest.
Pingeton was non-committal about her game plan for the Wildcats.
"Game-by-game, whatever it takes that night to win." Pingeton said concerning the Tigers' zone defense. "I love our man defense. I'm a man-to-man coach, but I'm all about trying to find a way to impact the game in a positive way for us."
The fourth-year coach also commended her team's ability to take care of the basketball after Thursday's game. The Tigers committed eight turnovers while assisting on 11 field goals against Georgia. Ball security will be a high priority for Missouri when facing a swarming Kentucky defense that averages 12.3 steals per game.
The Wildcats will be hungry for a victory on Sunday. After starting the season 13-1, Kentucky has run into some early troubles in conference play, dropping two consecutive games to Florida and No. 10 South Carolina.
Sunday's game will be nationally televised on ESPNU.