Missouri’s mid-game shooting slump spelled doom Friday in a 62-48 loss against Texas A&M during the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament quarterfinals at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
The Tigers (21-10) managed only 12 points and went 6 of 25 from the field during the second and third quarters, allowing the Aggies (21-10) to turn a nine-point deficit after the first quarter into an eight-point lead entering the final quarter.
“We’re not known as a great defensive team,” A&M coach Gary Blair said. “That might have been one of our best defensive efforts ever.”
The loss keeps Missouri winless in five tries at the SEC tourney.
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“Obviously, I’m disappointed in the game,” said Tigers coach Robin Pingeton, who was announced earlier Friday as one of 10 semifinalists for the Werner Ladder Naismith Women’s Coach of the Year. “I just didn’t think we played at our best. … I didn’t think we attacked as much as we needed to. I thought our turnovers we had really deflated us. We missed some shots we typically make.”
Mizzou — which committed 20 turnovers, including six in a disastrous four-point third quarter — also didn’t attempt a free throw until 3:04 remaining in the fourth quarter.
After scoring only eight second-quarter points, the Tigers led 27-24 at halftime only to have the Aggies surge in front with a 13-2 run.
Sophomore forward Anriel Howard, who had game-highs with 19 points and nine rebounds, and sophomore guard Danni Williams, who scored 12 with five boards, combined for A&M’s first 10 points in the third quarter.
“I felt like we didn’t come out with the sense of urgency we needed to,” Pingeton said. “We had the ball in front of our bench. They were in a 2-3 zone. The way we cut to be open was half-speed. We weren’t dialed in the way we needed to be for 40 minutes.”
Mizzou rediscovered its shooting touch in the fourth quarter, going 7 of 11 from the field in the final period, but stops proved hard to come by as A&M went 6 of 12 overall.
“They’re really aggressive on offense and defense,” said senior Sierra Michaelis, who scored a team-high 15. “We just didn’t respond the way we should have.”
The Aggies pulled in front by 12 a couple minutes into the fourth quarter on a three-pointer by Taylor Cooper, who finished with 16 points and seven rebounds, and kept that double-digit lead until the final 1:50.
Senior Lianna Doty’s layup made it 56-48 at that point, but A&M was perfect on six free throws in the final 1:39 in pulling away. The Aggies went 16 for 20 at the line, compared of 2 of 2 for the Tigers.
“I didn’t feel like we had the poise at times to get in our formations and our spacing was a little bit off,” Pingeton said. “Our ball reversals weren’t as good as they had been. … I thought our rotations on the drive, everything was a little off and didn’t seem free-flowing tonight.”
A&M — which fell behind 9-0 on three-pointers by Doty, Sophie Cunningham and sophomore forward Cierra Porter in the opening 2 1/2 minutes and trailed by as many as 10 in the first half — used an array of double teams along to stymie Mizzou’s pick-and-roll and aggressively deny Cunningham the ball in the post.
She eventually fouled out with 1:02 remaining after picking up a technical foul amid a frustrating sequence early in the fourth quarter.
“We could tell (we were under her skin),” Cooper said. “We had two people on her the whole entire night. That was kind of our game plan, just to not let her get loose.”
Cunningham torched A&M for 36 points during an overtime win Jan. 19 at Mizzou Arena, but she only scored 13 in the rematch.
“We weren’t shooting the ball as well as usually do and they did take away the pick-and-roll a little bit, but I just think we did it to ourselves … with unforced turnovers, but we’re going to learn from it and move on,” Cunningham said.
Other SEC tournament games
South Carolina 72, Georgia 48: SEC player of the year A’ja Wilson scored 18 points and No. 5 and top-seeded South Carolina opened its quest for a third straight SEC Tournament title with the blowout win over Georgia. The Gamecocks played without SEC first-team pick Alaina Coates, who sat out for a second time in three games with a right ankle injury.
The Gamecocks will face No. 20 Kentucky in the semifinals.
Kentucky 65, Alabama 55: Evelyn Akhator scored 23 points and Kentucky advanced to the semifinals for the eighth straight season with the win. The fourth-seeded Wildcats broke open a close game in third quarter, using a 10-3 burst to take control.
Mississippi State 78, LSU 61: Teaira McCowan scored 13 of her 15 points in the final 13 minutes to help No. 6 Mississippi State get the win. Mississippi State, the No. 2 seed, moved into the league semifinals for a second straight year.