Missouri women’s basketball takes early lead, runs with it in 20-point victory against Mississippi State

The Tigers led by five points at the end of the first quarter and widened the gap in the next two to put the game out of reach.

At the end of the first quarter, Missouri women’s basketball led by five points.

It didn’t look back.

A 17-12 lead turned into a 40-24 advantage at halftime, and the Tigers ultimately cruised to a 77-57 victory to close out the regular season, giving coach Robin Pingeton’s squad some much-needed momentum heading into the SEC tournament.

The opening quarter was the Shannon Dufficy, Aijha Blackwell and Hayley Frank show. The trio scored all 17 points — five, five and seven, respectively. Blackwell added four rebounds and three assists.

Missouri built on its recent strong 3-point shooting performances, shooting 7-15 from deep in the first half and 12-30 (40%) in the game. Senior guard Shug Dickson led the Tigers on 4-5 shooting from beyond the arc, and seven players recorded at least one triple.

Defense played a strong role in the victory, especially in the first half. The Tigers’ defense held the Bulldogs to 12 points in each of the first two quarters and didn’t allow them to score more than 17 in a single quarter. The defense recorded six steals and three blocks in the first quarter. It also out-rebounded the home team, grabbing 15 more boards than the Bulldogs.

Blackwell led the Tigers in boards once again, snatching 14 off the glass. She recorded yet another double-double, finishing with 12 points.

“The thing that sticks out to me more than anything was our focus and our intensity in our efforts defensively,” Pingeton said. “That’s something that we’ve talked a lot about lately, and I just feel like at some point it's gotta be a pride factor; it’s gotta be a grittiness.”

Dufficy quietly was one of the most important defensive components, especially in the first couple minutes of the first quarter. She forced a few turnovers and grabbed a few boards to set the tone for how the Tigers defended the rest of the game.

“She’s having the time of her life, isn’t she?” Pingeton said. “She’s got quick hands. She’s kinda got boxer hands. She’s getting her hands on loose balls; she blocked some shots and brings them down. [She] just plays tough.”

Missouri is the No. 10 seed in the SEC tournament and will play Alabama on Thursday. The Tigers lost to the ‘Tide by 15 points in the regular season back on New Year’s Eve, but none of that matters now.

“It’s the close of one chapter,” Pingeton said. “It’s a brand new season. You definitely want to take the lessons that you’ve learned throughout the course of the season. It’s March Madness, and, you know, anything can happen. I mean, there’s a storyline every year. Anything can happen.”

Edited by Kyle Pinnell | kpinnell@themaneater.com

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