After being outplayed by Arkansas on Sunday, Missouri women’s basketball’s schedule just gets more difficult as it heads to Baton Rouge on Thursday.

Thursday’s matchup will be coach Robin Pingeton and her squad’s third game against a ranked opponent, this time against No. 12 LSU. This will also be a chance to get Missouri (13-3, 2-1 SEC) back on track to try to be ranked itself.

This will be no easy feat for a Missouri team that is without starter Haley Troup and during its last time out forward LaDazhia Williams sat out the remainder of the game due to some groin pain. If it isn’t injuries, COVID-19 protocols are impacting MU and making its prep time for big-time games limited.

“I’m not gonna make any excuses, we didn’t do what we needed to do to put ourselves in a situation to win,” Pingeton said after losing to Arkansas. “But we got to be better. You know, we’ve got to control (what) we can control and we had some other opportunities and just didn’t get it done.”

If Missouri can take down No. 1 South Carolina short-handed, then taking on a veteran squad in LSU (15-2, 3-1) should fall in a similar difficulty level. The last time they met, Missouri trailed the majority of the game before making a second-half comeback that led to a game decided by free throws. This was one of many close losses Pingeton’s squad endured that season, losing to LSU 66-64 on Jan. 18, 2021.

When these teams meet again, the key differences are the shift in maturity and experience in both squads.

While LSU has eight players who are either seniors or graduate students, its growth came through coaching changes bringing last season’s winning coach Kim Mulkey from Baylor to LSU.

In her first season as head coach, her seasoned squad has taken down the likes of then-No. 14 Iowa State, No. 13 Georgia and a previously ranked Texas A&M team.

With Mulkey’s leadership and key contributions from guards Khayla Pointer and Alexis Morris, LSU has even more in the tank heading into Thursday’s game.

On the flip side, Missouri has seen improvement in its essential players. Aijha Blackwell is the best rebounder in the SEC and has played a key role in MU’s recent success. Blackwell had a slow start in their loss to Arkansas but still finished with her 11th double-double of the season. She’ll need a quicker start to go head to head with Pointer, who averages 18.1 points for LSU.

Junior guards Hayley Frank and Lauren Hansen also showcase the team’s growth.

Frank made four 3s against the Razorbacks. She led Missouri in scoring that game with 22 points. As opposed to last season when she had off nights offensively, Frank rarely has too many off nights. And if she does, she finds other ways such as rebounding and shot-blocking to impact the game.

Hansen also has found plenty of ways to positively impact the game, with 26 made 3s so far and an average of 10.5, making her the third MU player to average double-digit scoring. Finding ways to round out what Missouri lacks in veteran experience is key when playing LSU.

“We found a way to get it done against Auburn. We were at home, but you know, it’s gonna ... take a little bit of time to be a well-oiled machine again,” Pingeton said. “And so we’re going to figure out, you know, how to ... navigate that with practice and hopefully get healthy, get Troup back and we’ll see what happens.”

While on paper LSU has a much more experienced squad, Missouri’s ability to utilize its growth this season will be something to look out for in this match. LSU isn’t playing a Missouri squad that’s still struggling to find its identity like last season.

In this year’s matchup, MU will still have some adversity to face, but they will also have a team rooted in a solid scoring foundation in Blackwell, Frank and Hansen.

It also has shining spots at the point guard position in both Mama Dembele and key bench contributor Izzy Higginbottom. Demeble has had more confidence in her shooting abilities, while Higginbottom is growing into a future score-first style at point guard. Using all its pieces and limiting turnovers will be Missouri’s way to not only avoid a losing streak but to further prove its growth so far this season.

  • 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.

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