COLUMBIA — Missouri women's basketball coach Robin Pingeton is not normally one to look ahead.
And the Tigers (6-18, 3-8 Southeastern Conference) are certainly not overlooking Florida (13-11, 4-7 SEC) ahead of today's 2 p.m. tip at Mizzou Arena.
But in a season that has been more of a step back than Pingeton anticipated, Missouri can still move out of the bottom four of the conference standings with good results in its five remaining regular season games and avoid the play-in games on the first day of the SEC Tournament in Greenville, S.C., at the start of March.
"It's still a game-by-game mentality, but at the same time we still want to have something to play for," senior guard Jordan Roundtree said Friday. "It's easy to say it might be out of reach at this point, and you don't play well when you don't have something to play for, especially the senior class.
"We're not going to go out and we're not going to lay down just because of our record. We're not shying away from the fact that there's still something to play for, and we're going to approach the next six games like that."
After a gruelling start to conference play, with seven of the team's first nine games against ranked opponents, the Tigers' remaining schedule of the Gators, at Vanderbilt, versus Mississippi and Auburn and at Alabama are all games against teams with sub-.500 conference records. Missouri is within a game of Alabama and Florida (4-7), even with Vanderbilt and ahead of Auburn (2-9) and Mississippi (0-11).
The top seven seeds are virtually settled, but the 8 vs. 9 game is up for grabs.
The Gators had a similar start to SEC play, with six of their first nine games against ranked opponents, but Florida was able to steal a game on the road at No. 13 Kentucky.
"We've got an incredible opportunity in front of us with Florida, a very good team," Pingeton said. "I think they're very similar and as you see stretches in games that they look really, really good and stretches that maybe quite aren't so smooth and so I almost feel like we're looking ourselves in the mirror a little bit."
Missouri is 8-1 all-time against Florida, with the lone loss coming on the road last season, 58-56.
Aijha Blackwell has continued to elevate her game for the Tigers, now leading the team with 13.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, and in conference play those numbers have increased to 16.2 points per game and 8.0 rebounds per game.
Amber Smith (12.3 points, six rebounds) and Hayley Frank (11.8 points, four rebounds) have also remained consistent as key players for Missouri this year.
Freshman guard Lavender Briggs leads the Gators in scoring at 14.2 points per game, with redshirt junior guard Kiara Smith (12.2 ppg.) and redshirt senior Zada Williams (10.4 ppg.) also averaging double figures. Briggs tied a season-high with 23 points Thursday in a 74-72 win against Mississippi.
The Tigers, meanwhile, had a mid-week bye after dropping a 66-58 decision Monday at LSU. Missouri led for most of the first half but scored just six points in the third quarter. It's been a consistent issue for the Tigers, who have allowed opponents to outscore them 452-385 in third quarters of games this season.
"It's just one of those things that we're gonna have to get better at coming out of halftime regardless of what the score is, we just gotta keep going," Roundtree said. "We've done a decent job of coming up from behind, but when we're playing well and we're on top, we've just got to keep going.
"Another thing that we're going to have to work on is we play to win, we don't play not to lose. If we play to win for 40 minutes I don't think we're going to have to worry so much about that third quarter slump."