Following a nonconference slate that saw Missouri women’s basketball go 11-2, Robin Pingeton’s team will face its toughest test of the season: a home game against the top-ranked team in the nation in the Southeastern Conference opener, South Carolina.

Leading the undefeated Gamecocks is head coach Dawn Staley, who is in her 14th year with the program. Her 2020-21 team is looking to bring a second national championship back to Columbia, South Carolina, after cutting down the nets in 2017. In addition to the national title, South Carolina has been to two final fours and won six of the past seven SEC Tournament championships.

Leading the charge is 6-foot-5 center Aliyah Boston. Through 12 games, she’s averaged 17 points, 10.1 rebounds and three blocks. The junior headlines a front court that is fourth in the country in rebounds per game and first in rebounding margin. If Boston gets in foul trouble, Staley will turn to Syracuse transfer Kamilla Cardoso. The sophomore is only averaging 5.8 points but showed her star potential last season, averaging 13.6 points and eight rebounds as a freshman for the Orange.

In the back court, the two-headed monster of Zia Cooke and Destanni Henderson have given opponents problems the whole season. Cooke has taken a step back, averaging 11.4 compared to the 15.9 points she had last season, but she still poses a threat as a dangerous scorer.

Henderson has been phenomenal in her nine games played. After leading the SEC in assists last season, she’s dropped 4.8 per game with an assist to turnover ratio of 2-to-1. In addition to being the team’s floor general, the senior is a menace on the defensive end with games of six and seven steals to her name already.

For the Tigers to come out on top, they will have to be near perfect at the offensive end of the floor. One place they will have the advantage going in is from beyond the 3-point line. Missouri makes three more 3s per game than the Gamecocks, so outside shooting will be imperative with Boston patrolling the paint.

  • Summer 2021 General Reporter. Reach me at natemarcus210@gmail.com or (201) 270-7962

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