Shorthanded Mizzou women lose to Kentucky | Mizzou Sports News

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By Max Baker Special for the Post-Dispatch

COLUMBIA, Mo. — In the Missouri women’s basketball team’s final home game on Thursday, a game the Tigers needed to win to feel comfortable with their chances of making the NCAA Tournament, they were left without four players, including two key starters.

And without them, Kentucky capitalized early and never trailed on their way to a 78-63 win over Missouri at Mizzou Arena.

Junior Aijha Blackwell, redshirt senior LaDazhia Williams, redshirt rookie Skylah Travis and rookie Kiya Dorroh all did not dress for Thursday’s contest. It was St. Louisan Blackwell’s second absence in three games. The team’s leading scorer and rebounder was ruled out of the game against Georgia last week, but came off the bench and played against Mississippi State last Sunday.

Williams was on the bench, while Blackwell sat next to Missouri athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois in the seats behind them. No statement was provided before the match by MU. After the game, Tigers coach Robin Pingeton said she wasn’t sure if all four players would be back and said some of the players’ situations were different.

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University of Missouri police confirmed to the Post-Dispatch on Friday that Blackwell, Dorroh and Travis were cited Monday night for possession of marijuana in violation of a Columbia city ordinance. They were parked in a car in the upper level of a campus parking lot when they were approached by MU police.

“We have very high standards and expectations for our program,” Pingeton said. “There has to be an element of accountability.

“I know everyone wants the story, but no one knows the other’s journey,” she added. “We have high standards. We have expectations. There’s a lot on the plate for these young women as a student-athlete. There’s a lot that comes with that. It’s difficult, but there has to be that responsibility. It’s something we can’t hesitate about.

Needing a solid finish to clinch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament, the Tigers fell to 17-11 and 6-9 in SEC play. Kentucky, another NCAA bubble team, improved to 14-11 and 7-8 in the conference. ESPN’s updated NCAA Tournament projections on Friday have Mizzou among the last four teams on the court as the No. 12 seed and playing Boston College in one of four qualifying games.

On Thursday, Kentucky scored on its first eight possessions and took a 19-4 lead less than four minutes into the game. Missouri called time out, but made no substitutions. And then Kentucky quickly extended their lead to 17 points. The game leaned. Without three players in regular rotation, the Tigers lacked the depth they normally have. Missouri turned the ball over five times in the first quarter. In the timeout, Pingeton told the team to take a deep breath.

“The way we started the first seven minutes just wasn’t Mizzou basketball,” United striker Hayley Frank said. I felt like we were a bit on our heels and not playing with the confidence that we deserve to play.

Without Blackwell and Williams, two of the team’s best forwards, Kentucky’s Dre’una Edwards was successful. She shot 14 of 19 for 30 points, 14 more than her season average. She also grabbed 10 rebounds. Wildcats leading scorer Rhyne Howard was held to five field goals but was perfect from the foul line. She finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds.

“You have Batman and Robin,” Pingeton said.

United didn’t give up, however, occasionally moving to a confrontational zone and crawling all the way to reduce the deficit to 46-42 at halftime. The 3-point line helped keep Missouri in it. The Tigers shot 8 for 14 from behind the arc after three quarters.

“We increased the intensity and played with more confidence,” Frank said.

Frank made 4 of 5 3-pointers and led the Tigers with 16 points before the break. Foul trouble limited his playing time in a scoreless second half. Lauren Hansen also made two 3s and they became the first teammates with 60 or more 3s in the same season for the first time in school history.

The Tigers ran out of gas in the fourth quarter. MU went scoreless on the pitch until 3:30 of the last quarter and failed to connect on a triple. That allowed Kentucky to push their lead to 12 points, which all but ended the Tigers’ hopes.

“I thought we had a great look that we didn’t spill,” Pingeton said. “We had a couple around the rim. Some very nice looks from the 3-point line. I thought we looked tired. We don’t move as much as we used to.

Pingeton’s team entered Thursday’s game tied with Kentucky and Arkansas for seventh place in the SEC.

“I think generally when you watch the NCAA tournament you usually have to be .500 in SEC play,” Pingeton said. “But I think it’s the deepest the SEC has ever been. I think there’s still an opportunity for us.

In MU’s final game, he travels to No. 15 Florida at 11 a.m. Sunday before taking part in next week’s SEC tournament in Nashville.

“I’m still very confident,” Pingeton said. “I really am. I believe in this team. … I really want it for them. We talk about making sure we center ourselves and remember our why. Winning has to be a by-product.

Dave Matter of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.


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