Mizzou hurt by turnovers, can’t stop Baylor offense

Story by Lauren Delaney
Photos by Derek Klein

Missouri conceded the opening jump to Baylor, having 5-foot-9-inch Morgan Eye up against 6-foot-8-inch Brittney Griner. Missouri’s remaining players had dropped back into defensive positions.

Missouri faced the No. 1 Baylor Bears at Mizzou Arena Wednesday evening for the second time in conference play.  The first time the teams met this season on January 3, Baylor ran off with a 90-46 victory over Missouri. Wednesday night was a slightly different story.

The Tigers held the Baylor Bears to 71 points, but 25 of those points came from turnovers.  One of the Tigers’ biggest weaknesses in the fight against the Bears was the number of turnovers the offense forced. The Tigers turned the ball over 11 times in the first half alone, giving the Bears an offensive advantage. The fans were noticeably frustrated with the reoccurring turnovers, but the players didn’t let their emotions get the best of them.

“To be honest, we’re not allowed to get frustrated because that causes deflation,” said senior forward BreAnna Brock. “It gets frustrating, but also we can build off that; we know what we can’t do to get that turnover, and we can change that into a positive and do what we can to not cause that again.”

Missouri coach Robin Pingeton wasn’t expecting a perfect game against the best women’s basketball team in the nation.  Pingeton noted that it’s tough to play against a roster stacked with McDonald’s All-American players, but she was proud her players were able to hold their own.  Baylor’s 6-foot 8-inch center Brittney Griner scores an average 22.7 points per game, and Missouri held her to 18 points. Tiger seniors Brock and Christine Flores fought hard against Griner under the boards and snagged 12 rebounds collectively. Missouri was able to play aggressively despite the height disadvantage.

Brock went toe-to-toe with Griner and was challenged the duration of the game. On covering Griner, Brock said, “It’s a tough task, she’s really tall, her wingspan just adds to that height. It’s tough, but at the same time I don’t think about her being that size, I’m her size in my mind when I’m guarding her.”

Brock tied with Crafton each adding eight points for the Tigers. Brock made three of the six shots she took, leaving her with a 50 percent shooting average for the night.  In her past three games, Brock has been in a shooting slump over the last three games, sinking less than 35 percent of her shots.  Wednesday night Brock seemed to rebound from her slump. She hit a 3-pointer late in the first half; junior guard Sydney Crafton drove hard to the basket, but when she noticed Brock standing wide open on the perimeter, Crafton kicked the ball out to Brock who sank the ball in for the three. Brock hit another 3-pointer halfway through the second period, thanks to another Crafton assist. Less than a minute later, Brock went hard in the paint and broke through the Baylor defense, scoring a layup.

Despite Brock’s increased shooting average during this game, the Tigers weren’t sinking shots.  In the second half, the team’s shooting average dropped to 29%, making only eight of 27 baskets.  Flores averages 18.7 points per game, but those statistics didn’t translate in this hard-fought match.  Flores was held to seven points, and only made three of her 15 attempts at the basket. This was the second time this season that Baylor had kept the opposing team from having any player score in double digits.

When asked whether Flores’ shooting wasn’t quite there tonight or if it was the aggressive Baylor defense, Pingeton said, “It felt like she took some rushed shots, she didn’t have that poise she’s had as of late with her shot, especially on the perimeter. Certainly not a typical shooting night for her but I think it’s a little bit of both to be honest with you.”

The numbers might not look so great for the Tigers, but they never quit on the court against the top-ranked team.  And for the players, that’s a victory in itself.

“Not a lot of teams can say they’ve played the No. 1 team in the nation, and I feel like collectively we went out there and played hard and we never gave up. We can just take what we didn’t do and get better at that in practice, and take that and move forward to our next game,” Brock said.

The Tigers head to Lubbock, Texas, on Sunday to take on Texas Tech (15-6, 3-6). Missouri is still searching for a conference win, now holding a 0-9 conference record after losing to Baylor.

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