Second half struggles hurt Missouri in loss to Mississippi State

Sunday, January 26, 2014 | 6:54 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Sierra Michaelis scored her first points as a Southeastern Conference player, but Missouri couldn't hold a first half lead as the Tigers fell to the Mississippi State Bulldogs 69-62 in Starkville, Miss.

Michaelis entered five minutes into the game and scored her first points less than three minutes later. The freshman played 20 minutes and finished with eight points. Coach Robin Pingeton, who has used Michaelis sparingly in SEC games, knew how Mississippi State's defense would guard her team, so she wanted to try something new.

"We thought we'd throw her out there and see what happened," Pingeton said on the KTGR post-game radio show. "I think overall she had some good minutes for us."

With four minutes to play in the first half, Missouri went on a 6-0 run to bump its biggest lead of the half to eight points. Freshman Jordan Frericks, scoring four of those six points, also finished the game with eight points.

Missouri led by five at halftime. That lead quickly disappeared. After shooting 50 percent in the first half, Missouri's shooting numbers fell to 37.5 percent. Turnovers and offensive fouls led to Mississippi State's 17-6 run seven minutes into the second half.

Missouri senior Bri Kulas and junior Morgan Eye led the team in scoring with 14 points each. However, Kulas struggled. Eight of Missouri's 20 turnovers came with the ball in Kulas' hands.

Mississippi State (15-6, 2-5 SEC) is known for forcing turnovers and making other teams pay. Before Sunday's game, the Bulldogs had forced opponents into an average 23.6 turnovers per game. Mississippi State has converted 472 forced turnovers into 498 points, already passing the team's total from last season. The Bulldogs scored 22 points off Missouri's 20 turnovers on Sunday.

Missouri's 3-point shooting struggled in the second half for the second game in a row. After going 4-for-11 in the first half, the Tigers only made two of their eight shots from 3-point range in the second half. The Bulldogs are tough to score against from behind the arc. Mississippi State ranks third in the SEC with a 26.9 3-point field goal percentage defense.

Mississippi State freshman Dominique Dillingham scored a career-high 21 points and made five 3-pointers. Prior to Sunday's game, Dillingham averaged 10 points per game.

Dillingham also was on the receiving end of the majority of Missouri's offensive fouls. It seemed like every time Missouri tried to get the offense in a rhythm, the Tigers would be called for an offensive foul.

"We just picked up too many of those offensive fouls that led to empty possessions," Pingteon said. "Couple calls here and there and we’ve got a different ball game."

But Missouri's head coach wasn't making excuses. She admits her team wasn't able to adjust to avoid the offensive foul calls.

"We've got to take ownership of that. We've got to make those adjustments," Pingeton said.

Missouri (13-7, 2-5 SEC) has now lost four games in a row. The Tigers play their first of three games against ranked teams Thursday when No. 16 Vanderbilt travels to Columbia.

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