No signs of rust: Missouri defeats Ole Miss after second 10+ day hiatus of season

The Tigers got out of the gate early and used a 29-point first quarter to beat Ole Miss.

To the naked eye, it didn’t look as if Missouri women’s basketball hadn’t played in 11 days.

The Tigers are used to these types of layoffs now.

On Thursday night, it seemed as though Missouri was in the middle of a long winning streak as it overcame the lack of recent games played to defeat Ole Miss 86-77 and win its first conference game of the season.

It’s not the first time the Tigers have had a long break between games. After their season-opening win against North Alabama, they were unable to play for two weeks due to positive COVID-19 cases that emerged within the Missouri program.

This time around, Missouri traveled to Auburn expecting to play the Tigers on Jan. 10. However, just hours prior to tip-off, the game was canceled due to positive COVID-19 cases within Auburn’s program.

“It’s been really hard to get into a rhythm,” coach Robin Pingeton said. “We had Vanderbilt canceled and then Auburn, and I know that was kind of an emotional rollercoaster for our kids.”

Leading up to Missouri’s clash with Ole Miss, there was still fear of a last-minute cancelation.

“When we had shootaround this morning, then had a pregame meal, I think the girls were just kind of like, ‘Okay, we’re not gonna get that phone call, are we?’” Pingeton said. “[I was a] little worried if we were gonna be able to play or not but I just think and practice, any game we get under our belt is so huge right now.”

The Tigers opened the game with no signs of being out of rhythm and no signs of pregame stress, scoring 29 points in the first quarter and shooting 81.8% from the field. The team turned the ball over just twice. Sophomore guard Aijha Blackwell didn’t miss in the opening quarter, going 5-5 from the field and scoring 12 points. She went cold in the second quarter and had to sit out much of the second half due to foul trouble, but still finished with 15 points.

“It’s a pretty laid back team,” Pingeton said of her players. “Sometimes it’s hard to read them when they’re coming out on the court. But as soon as that ball was tipped I felt the energy from them. I felt that they were locked in.”

The Tigers slipped a little in the second quarter and allowed the Rebels to get back in the game.

But the second half was the Hayley Frank show.

The sophomore only scored two points in the first half, but exploded in the second half to finish with 23 points, 15 of which were scored via the three-pointer. No one else on Missouri’s roster scored more than seven in the second half.

“I didn’t say anything specifically to [Hayley,]” Pingeton said. “She knows that we need her to be assertive offensively. I think she felt pretty confident. Credit her for being more aggressive.”

The last time Missouri came back after a hiatus, the Tigers mustered only 10 points in their first quarter against then No. 21 Missouri State. Frank took just five shots all game and made only one three-pointer.

In the fourth quarter against Ole Miss, Frank took six shots — five of them from beyond the arc — and scored 13 points. That type of productivity is exactly what the Tigers need to win games down the stretch, and Pingeton knows it.

“We all know [Frank] can shoot the heck out of it,” Pingeton said. “She’s one of our hardest workers. She’s a winner and she hit some big ones for us tonight. I think we all feel really good when Hayley’s shooting the ball.”

Edited by Kyle Pinnell | kpinnell@themaneater.com

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