Missouri women’s basketball finds its three-point stroke in 96-80 win over Florida

The Tigers tied a program record with 18 three-point baskets, and three players scored over 20 points in the win.

For much of the season, Mizzou Arena had been a house of horrors for Missouri women’s basketball.

The Tigers failed to win any of their previous five SEC home games, but Sunday afternoon felt different from the opening tip.

Senior forward Shannon Dufficy knocked down a three on the first possession. The Tigers hit three of their first four looks from behind the arc.

Then the floodgates opened.

Missouri finished the afternoon with a program record 18 made threes and rode its hot shooting to a 96-80 win over Florida, its first SEC home win of the season.

“There was ball movement,” Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said. “There were good reads; I thought we attacked, played off of two feet and made the extra pass… for the most part, I thought [we were] pretty efficient offensively.”

No matter which player attempted a three, it often went in. Sophomore Hayley Frank knocked down six triples, Dufficy hit five and three others hit at least two. The Tigers finished with 10 made threes in the first half and converted seven of their nine attempts in the third quarter.

Missouri desperately needed the performance it had against Florida, One in which the offense clicked on all cylinders –– with four players putting up at least 19 points –– and the defense forced 17 turnovers.

“You know, what stood tonight was our ability to find the open man, make the extra pass and then knock down open shots,” Pingeton said.

3-point shooting became important with forward LaDazhia Williams’ unannounced absence. The redshirt junior suited up against the Gators, but never played due to an injury suffered in practice Friday afternoon.

“We did have to play a little more of an outside game,” Missouri senior Shug Dickson said, “but we took advantage of whatever they gave us.”

With Williams unavailable, Pingeton schemed up some post-touches for forwards Aijha Blackwell and Frank. Because the two sophomores are primarily guards, they allowed for some offensive mismatches against Florida’s bigs.

“We knew we didn’t want to just be hanging out on the perimeter,” Pingeton said. “We wanted to go inside-out, and typically you got size and power with Aijha [Blackwell] getting it on the block and [Hayley Frank] with her versatility… There were a lot of options that I thought we had a chance to expose tonight.”

Pingeton started Dufficy in Williams’ place, and the Australian finished with 19 points on seven-for-11 shooting. Her ability to stretch the floor helped open up other facets of Missouri’s offense as the Tigers built their early lead.

And, just one week after Missouri’s bench contributed six total points, it bounced back with 28 against the Gators, led by Dickson’s 20.

With just over three minutes remaining, Florida cut the Tigers’ 23-point fourth-quarter lead to just ten. But from there, the Tigers scored 10 unanswered points to put the game away for good.

“That would have been an opportunity for us to play not to lose, and we’ve been in that situation before,” Pingeton said. “For us to maintain that composure and finish strong I thought was really, really important.”

On Sunday afternoon, Missouri won and did so convincingly. With just two games left and the SEC tournament fast approaching, a league home win is just what the Tigers needed.

“I think it's hit us that it's coming toward the end of the seasom, and we need to make a run now,” Dufficy said. “Now’s our time to get momentum, and I think that’s motivated us to play harder and play more for each other.”

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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