Turnovers were the story of the game at Mizzou Arena on Thursday night.
The Tigers forced 30 turnovers and held Southwest Baptist University to 25% shooting from the field as they cruised to a 90-35 victory in their final preseason tuneup. Out of the 30 turnovers, MU stole the ball 18 times and blocked three shots. On the other end of the floor, Missouri only gave the ball up nine times with almost half of those coming in the first quarter.
Robin Pingeton’s squad got off to a slow start offensively. Besides an early barrage of 3-pointers, the Tigers struggled to find a rhythm as a zone defense as the visiting Bearcats forced contested shots and turnovers. Even with a struggling offense, MU found itself with a 16-point lead after the first quarter thanks to some stellar defense.
The Tigers offense got a chance to shine in the second quarter. Aijha Blackwell and Hayley Frank were the catalysts in extending their lead to 25 before halftime. Blackwell, who was voted to the preseason All-SEC team, had a strong performance throughout the night. Blackwell finished with a double-double, scoring 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
The third quarter was the best 10 minutes of basketball Missouri played. Frank, Blackwell and LaDazhia Williams imposed their will on the defense. The Tigers shot an almost perfect 88% from the field as they outscored SBU 32-9. The quarter put the bow on what was another efficient night for Frank. MU’s second-leading returning scorer poured in 16 points, including four more 3s on six attempts.
The Tigers were again boosted by their bench.Freshman Izzy Higginbottom and Williams gave Missouri a spark. Higginbottom continued her strong preseason with 16 points, while Williams had 13 points in just 17 minutes.
MU’s reserves played most of the fourth quarter, but the defensive intensity did not drop. The Tigers only allowed six fourth-quarter points to ice the victory.
The offensive standout for Southwest Baptist was Nyah Pettis. The senior guard finished the game with nine points in her 20 minutes.
One of the things Missouri is going to have to improve on is fouling. Its aggressive defense will without a doubt result in foul trouble at times. The downside of that is putting their opponents in the bonus early in quarters as they did tonight. The Tigers surrendered 15 free-throw attempts in the first half. It did not hurt them Thursday, but against SEC competition, it could bite them.