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Missouri women too tentative in home loss to LSU

Missouri women too tentative in home loss to LSU

January 5th, 2018 by Colin O'Brien in Mizzou Sports

COLUMBIA — In front of a home crowd at Mizzou Arena and playing for a program-record 14th-consecutive win without leading scorer Sophie Cunningham, No. 15 Missouri stumbled to a 69-65 loss against the LSU Tigers.

It was LSU's eighth straight win, while it was Missouri's first loss since the season opener Nov. 10 against Western Kentucky.

LSU's three-quarter court pressure made Missouri bring the ball up slowly and the visitors' tough zone forced Missouri into first-half shot clock violations and kept the team out of its offensive rhythm to such a degree where nobody looked comfortable shooting the ball.

Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said she put her team on its heels too much with her pregame warnings about taking care of the ball, and took the blame for the lack of offensive aggressiveness early. The second quarter was Missouri's undoing. The Tigers couldn't find a consistent scorer on offense in that 10-minute span and LSU (10-3, 2-0 SEC) outscored the home Tigers 25-10. Missouri outscored LSU the other three quarters.

"This one's on me, I had our girls a little too hesitant offensively, just talking about taking care of the ball too much instead of doing what we do," Pingeton said. "That second quarter certainly hurt us."

Amber Smith scored a career-high 27 points on 18 shots, and Jordan Frericks added 19 points and 15 rebounds — five offensive — which kept Missouri in the game in the second quarter, but the Tigers otherwise went cold in that quarter and could not crack LSU's zone.

Missouri (13-2, 1-1 SEC) trailed 32-21 at halftime and was down by as many as 15 points late in the second quarter, but fought back to within two points on four occasions late in the fourth quarter.

LSU's Chloe Jackson, who finished the game with 22 points and was 2-for-2 on 3s, always seemed to have an answer to cut MU's run just short.

"We ran play-action to the right people. We have options," LSU head coach Nikki Fargas said. "When you have (Raigyne) Louis and Jackson on the floor, it gives you a great combination to choose from, and they made big shots. I thought Louis made some huge plays for us down the stretch."

Fargas was very complimentary of Missouri's post presence after the game and said she was glad her team found a way to end the home team's dominance on the offensive glass, which hurt LSU early, and handled their opponent's other playmakers.

"Frericks is a beast," Fargas said. "We worried about Sophie, because she's such a talent. I know last year when we played them, I think she dropped 30 on us. But we wanted to kind of guard everybody else. It's kind of the Michael Jordan, you know, can't stop him but let's guard everybody else, and that's how we played last year. It's hard to replace what she brings, not only from a scoring standpoint but her toughness, her energy."

Cunningham was not cleared to play before the game after she sprained her knee in Sunday's game at Alabama.

Pingeton's team still had chances to win the game late without Cunningham. Smith scored 20 of her 27 points in the second half and the team made 55 percent of its second-half shots, but LSU was able to keep Missouri at arm's length. Nadia Green scored six of Missouri's eight bench points.

"Coach talked to us at halftime about being more aggressive on offense, and she said, 'Stop settling,'" Smith said. "So getting into the paint would make it easier, because we're an inside-out team, so getting to the paint was essential, and if they didn't help up I felt like I had a shot."

"I just felt like we took so much time off the clock instead of spots, poise, attack mentality," Pingeton added. "We were more concerned with taking care of the ball instead of being more aggressive with it and I think that led to a lot of late shot clock situations for us."

Louis, who finished with 16 points for LSU, missed two free throws with six seconds left and LSU up by two, but Frericks' outlet pass resulted in a turnover, a miscommunication she took the blame for between her, Jordan Chavis and Green.

The ball went off Green's hand and out of bounds. Jackson was fouled on the next in-bounds pass and made her free throws to seal the game.

Smith had a career night and Frericks put in work, but Cierra Porter and Lauren Aldridge battled foul trouble all night in a tightly-called game. Chavis, who is usually a spark plug off the bench, went 0-for-5 from the floor.

Missouri hosts defending national champion, No. 4 South Carolina (13-1, 2-0 SEC), at 1 p.m. Sunday. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.