On Idaho State's first defensive possession, it decided to neutralize Missouri women's basketball's biggest weapon — Aijha Blackwell. While she is no stranger to the double-team, Blackwell's scoring was limited this time around.

The Bengals got on the board first and held as high as a four-point lead over the Tigers. It didn't help Missouri's case that its shots just weren't landing. Both teams struggled offensively, the Tigers shot 39% from the field in the first half while the Bengals shot 23%.

"We had a slow start in the first five minutes," Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said. "There's so much to clean up offensively and defensively, I mean it's just a lot to clean up."

From those early moments, it was clear the game would be decided by defense. The Tigers came out on top in the defensive battle, beating Idaho State 75-47. To make up for the slow offensive start, Pingeton had her squad full-court pressing coming out of their first timeout. The switch immediately paid off, with sophomore guard Sara-Rose Smith getting a steal and layup off the inbound pass.

The Tigers don't typically go with the full-court press, but it was the game changer they needed. Missouri scored 27 points off 21 forced turnovers. The defensive leaders along with Smith were guards Lauren Hansen, Hayley Frank and Mama Dembele. Each finished with at least one steal. Hansen and Dembele, along with snagging the ball from opponents, wore the Bengals' guards down with their on-ball defending.

"I think she's really been destroying some weaknesses in her game and in other's games and I think she understands what she can do defensively, " Pingeton said of Dembele. "I've said this many of times I definitely wouldn't want to bring the ball up the court against her."

Defense led to offense in Sunday afternoon's victory. By the third quarter, Missouri held its largest lead — 40 points. The 47 points allowed was the least an opponent has scored this season. It also gave way for other Tigers outside of Blackwell and Frank to take on the scoring load.

Freshman Izzy Higginbottom was the offensive spark. She has continuously been a scorer coming off the bench and Sunday was no different. She scored a career-high 18 points , going 4 of 6 from behind the arc.

"I definitely feel more comfortable and I think just comes from my teammates and coaches and just the confidence and trust they display for me," Higginbottom said. 

Hansen and Smith also hit double-digits. Hansen built off of her standout performance against Saint Louis, scoring 15 points along with two steals. Smith, who like Higginbottom has become a go-to scorer from the bench, scored 10 points.

Though it wasn't pretty, it was one of the Tigers' most complete wins this season. Blackwell didn't finish with a double-double but still led her team with nine rebounds. On the other side of Missouri's dynamic duo, Frank managed eight points, four rebounds, and two steals.

Whatever the two guards lacked, their team picked up, showcasing the complex pieces in Pingeton's squad. Whether it be an overwhelming defensive presence from Hansen and Dembele or the shooting flair from Higginbottom, Missouri had it covered against Idaho State.

The Tigers will return home for another nonconference matchup at 7 p.m. Tuesday against Troy.

  • I am a sports reporter for the fall semester 2020 and I am currently studying sports journalism print and digital. You can reach me at shannonbelt@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

Recommended for you