Missouri wins its 12th-consecutive game against Ole Miss, picks up first SEC win of season

Timely offense and Hayley Frank’s stellar second-half performance was enough to dispatch the Rebels 86-77 on the road.

You have to go all the way back to 1981 to find the last time the Missouri women’s basketball team dropped a game to Ole Miss.

While Thursday evening's game may have been a little too close for comfort at times, Missouri did just enough down the stretch to close out Ole Miss and pick up an 86-77 victory in Oxford, Miss.

Sophomore Hayley Frank finished with a game-high 23 points on 10 shots and five players scored in double figures to help the Tigers secure their first SEC win of the 2020-21 season.

“We’ve got some older kids on our team, it’s just the minutes, playing time and the experience that we’re lacking,” Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said. “There were some frustrations with different things, but their ability to put it behind them and their next-play mentality was pretty good tonight.”

Missouri struggled to put the Rebels away all night. Each time the visitors went on a run and established some breathing room, Ole Miss answered right back. With what was ultimately their final push of the night, the Rebels went on a 7-0 run to tie the game at 53 midway through the third quarter, but from there, it was all Missouri.

“This was the first time we ever played a team like this,” Ole Miss coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin said. “All five [Missouri] players on the floor could shoot the three, and we didn’t trust the game plan and started to show our youth.”

With both sophomore Aijha Blackwell and forward LaDazhia Williams in foul trouble, Frank's second-half surge proved to be vital in the Tigers’ win. After a quiet two-point first half, the sophomore put up 21 second-half points, including a catch-and-shoot three at the third quarter buzzer to cap off a 9-0 run.

“She knows that we needed her to be assertive offensively,” Pingeton said. “We talk about trusting that ball movement, putting each other in positions and being able to create shots for each other… I think she felt pretty confident. She knew that she was in a good rhythm, but credit her for being more aggressive.”

It’s been eleven days since the Tigers played their last game, a 91-88 loss to Arkansas on Jan 3. Missouri knew then that its scheduled game against Vanderbilt wouldn’t be played due to COVID-19 issues within the Vanderbilt program.

However, they didn’t expect their game against Auburn to be cancelled hours before tipoff due to COVID-19 positive cases within the Auburn program.

Despite the two-week layoff, the Tigers showed very little rust. They busted right out of the gate and put together a 29-point first quarter as the offense hummed and the ball swung from corner to corner.

Blackwell came out aggressive, attacking the hoop and seemed to score at well. The sophomore went a perfect five-for-five and scored 12 first-quarter points.

Missouri also tried to establish Williams in the paint early and often. The forward got into foul trouble early against Arkansas, but that didn’t stop the Tigers going right back to the well against Ole Miss. Williams finished with 13 points and made seven of her eight free throws, with most of her output coming as Missouri built its lead in the first half.

“I think we’ve got some really talented pieces,” Pingeton said. “It’s just a matter of putting the puzzle together.”

The Tigers found themselves up 37-25 midway through the second quarter before the Rebels closed the half on a 14-4 run. Missouri shot eight free throws in the first quarter, but shot zero in the second while Blackwell cooled off significantly.

But after the Tigers 9-0 run in the second half, the Rebels had no answer left. Ole Miss played three games a week ago while Missouri didn’t play any. By the time the fourth quarter arrived, the visitors were in complete control while the Rebels wore out.

“They kept going when we were done,” McPhee-McCuin said. “The score was 29-21 in the first quarter, but it took a lot for us to get those 21 points. We were just depleted.”

Although relatively young and playing just its eighth game of the season, the Tigers always felt like the more experienced team. They made the plays they needed to make at the right time and found a way to win their first game of 2021, yet another in their 40-year winning streak against the Rebels.

“We let some possessions get away from us,” Pingeton said. “You have to give them credit, they’re a great defensive team, but we found a way to pull out a nice win on the road.”

The Tigers now return to Columbia to host LSU in their first home game of 2021. The tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. Central.

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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