COLUMBIA — The Missouri women's basketball team may be happy to leave a snow-covered Columbia on Wednesday, but the reward of warmer weather comes with the challenge of facing No. 16 LSU.
Coming off a blowout road loss against No. 7 South Carolina, the Tigers will look to make some adjustments, starting from the opening tip.
Who: Missouri Tigers (14-8, 3-6) vs. No. 16 LSU Tigers (17-5, 6-3)
When: Thursday 7 p.m.
Where: Pete Maravich Assembly Center, Baton Rogue, La.
Radio: KTGR 100.5 FM, 103.1 FM, and 1580 AM
"Our first half was a little rough," sophomore guard Morgan Stock said. "I think we really need to take it all out at the beginning and be sure to come out strong in the first half."
Although Missouri (14-8, 3-6) hopes for a different result in this matchup against LSU (17-5, 6-3), the Tigers would not mind a repeat of their first half performance from Jan. 16. The Tigers from the bayou were welcomed to Columbia with a flurry of outside shots. Missouri scored its first 15 points from beyond the arc and stayed hot throughout the first half, finishing 10-for-17 on deep balls.
Eventually, sharpshooting became contagious. Led by Jeanne Kenney's 30 points, LSU hit a school-record 13 3-pointers, and the visitors got the last laugh with an 87-68 victory.
LSU torched Missouri's zone with outside shooting in their first meeting, but a similar performance might be difficult to recreate. On the season, LSU ranks 11th in the SEC with 4.1 3-point field goals per game. The team has made 15 3-pointers in five games since its visit to Missouri.
Rather than limiting perimeter opportunities, Missouri will focus on protecting the paint. After showing signs of vulnerability in the post against South Carolina's duo of 6-foot-4 forwards Elem Ibiam and Alaina Coates, Missouri's defensive game plan will be centered on stopping LSU forward Theresa Plaisance.
The 6-foot-5 senior averages 14.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.
"She's a player we count on," LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said last month. "She has answered the call many times, and she makes big baskets when we need them.
"I'm going to go on record and say that she's one of the best post players in the country. And we would not be in the position that we are in without her."
Missouri has consistently played a 2-3 zone specifically geared to limit inside opportunities throughout the SEC season. In recent games, some new players have seen time defending the post position. Senior forward Tania Jackson has missed five straight games with a knee injury. Her absence has presented sophomore forwards Michelle Hudyn and Darian Saunders with more in-game opportunities. Hudyn registered season-highs in points (six), rebounds (six) and minutes (16) against Vanderbilt last week, and Saunders made an impact with her physical presence against South Carolina.
"We just wanted to see in these games with the size that we are going up against inside, if we could maybe make something happen with that," Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said.
"It might be a minute; it might be five minutes or fifteen. But, that one minute might be the most important minute of the game," she said. "They understand that they have to go out there and try to make a positive impact on the game while they're out there on the court."
While Plaisance presents a difficult challenge for Missouri's defense, the LSU forward will be tested on the defensive end. She likely will be tasked with the tall order of containing Missouri's Bri Kulas, who scored a career-high 30 points in their first meeting.
"She's a very versatile player with a lot of size," Plaisance said last month of Kulas. "If you put a big man on her, she has the ball-handling skills to take you to the rim. If you put a guard on her, she's got the post moves to post the little guys up."
Thursday's game will be the seventh of eight in which Missouri has played against a ranked opponent.
Supervising editor is Mark Selig.