Missouri comeback bid falls short in 66-64 loss to LSU.

The Tigers didn’t play a complete 40 minutes, and it cost them in a home loss against LSU.

With just under three minutes remaining in Missouri women’s basketball’s game against LSU, guard Lauren Hansen pump-faked, took a dribble to her left and shot an open three that swished through the net.

As she ran back down the court with her team trailing just 58-55, the bench roared to life as LSU called a timeout. At that point, Missouri found the momentum it sorely lacked throughout much of the night, and players knew that they were back in a game that looked lost not even five minutes before.

But shortly after all that excitement, reality sunk in and players learned a harsh lesson: They can’t afford to dig themselves that deep of a hole in the SEC.

The Tigers’ big fourth-quarter comeback attempt fell just short, and when the final buzzer sounded, players headed to the locker room frustrated about how they got into that position.

“They know that we didn’t play well tonight,” Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well tonight, we didn’t play with energy and passion and represent ourselves and the university the way we needed to.”

The fourth quarter was everything the first three were not. The Tigers trailed by as many as 16 points in the final frame before they suddenly flipped a switch.

For those final few minutes, Missouri looked like an SEC title contender. It forced multiple turnovers and turned those added opportunities into transition baskets. The Tigers slowly came to life as they sensed the fans in Mizzou Arena grow louder and louder.

With a minute left, Missouri found themselves down by just three, but they just couldn’t close out LSU, which did well to quell the momentum and finish off an important road victory.

“I felt like there was a lot more energy in that fourth quarter,” sophomore Hayley Frank said. “I think we’ll have to learn from this one that even when things aren’t going our way, we’ll have to keep that energy and fight harder than we did in the first half.”

After the game, Pingeton and her players talked about what they did well in the final minutes, but kept coming back to how they underperformed in the first three quarters.

“We can’t let the game run away from us on our home floor,” Hansen said. “I think we got to come out with that mentality, but I think we picked it up in the fourth quarter.”

Missouri put up seven more points in the final quarter than they did in the entirety of the first half. Only two players scored in double figures, and the bench contributed just 16 points.

On the other end, LSU’s length and defense prevented Missouri from getting consistently good looks or finding any kind of offensive flow. When Missouri did get a shot up, it often wasn’t a very good look. One play ended with redshirt senior Shug Dickson taking a deep, contested three at the shot-clock buzzer that barely drew iron.

“We cannot hang our hat on our offense,” Pingeton said. “There are going to be nights where our shot doesn't fall, and we’ve got to be able to maintain our focus defensively and continue to shoot the shots that are good for us.”

When Missouri is at its best, it often coincides with good performances from sophomores Frank and Aijha Blackwell. However, LSU did well to take both of Missouri’s offensive cogs away early on.

Blackwell led her team with 14 points, but she finished the first half with three points on one-for-five shooting and didn’t start the second half. Frank had two points at halftime, but unlike the Tigers’ previous game against Ole Miss –– where she finished the night with 23 points after a 2-point first half –– Frank mustered just nine points against LSU.

LaDazhia Williams, who scored in double-digits her last two games, struggled to get much of anything against LSU’s lengthy frontcourt.

Ultimately, the offense never really got hot enough to completely make up the deficit it built over the first three quarters, and LSU executed just well enough to leave Columbia with a win.

Minutes after the loss, Blackwell came back onto the court to get shots up. Players and coaches were frustrated after the game knowing that they let a winnable game slip away because of how they started it.

“None of us were happy with losing,” Frank said. It was definitely a frustrating one tonight. I felt like it was a really good opportunity for us to get a win, but I felt like there were way too many breakdowns on our part.”

In the fourth quarter, Missouri showed what it can look like when shots are falling, the ball is flying around the court and teammates are rallying around one another.

But Pingeton made it clear that, despite the promising comeback, there are no moral victories for a team currently residing in the bottom-half of the SEC.

“I think there’s a certain way you got to play the game,” Pingeton said. “You got a responsibility for 40 minutes to let it all hang out. Be a great teammate, bring energy, play one possession at a time. I’m proud of the resiliency for sure, but this is a 40-minute game.”

The Tigers played a flawless final ten minutes on Monday night, but they shot 34%, turned the ball over 13 times and took just two free throws in the first 20.

That often won’t cut it in SEC play, and it didn’t against LSU.

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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