The Missouri women’s basketball team knew Auburn’s plan would not waver, not even after Mizzou took a 17-point lead early in the second half in Auburn, Ala.
Auburn was going to utilize a fullcourt press, just as it had all season. And on Thursday, when No. 13 Missouri picked up a 59-51 road victory, the pressure defense kept Auburn in the game.
“That’s their identity,” Mizzou coach Robin Pingeton said of Auburn on KTGR’s postgame radio show. “They come at you. It wears on you. They’re relentless. They’re ball hungry. I’m disappointed in the way we valued the ball. Against teams like this, you’re going to turn it over, but we had our share of silly turnovers.”
Both teams made just 21 field goals, but Auburn attempted 76 shots to Missouri’s 47. Auburn’s press helped force 24 Missouri turnovers, a season high for MU. Mizzou guards Lauren Aldridge and Amber Smith each turned the ball over six times.
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Four MU giveaways early in the second half facilitated an 18-5 Auburn run that trimmed Mizzou’s lead to four points with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter.
But Missouri always responded to Auburn’s push.
Soon after she checked into the game, reserve guard Jordan Roundtree hit a corner three. That shot, Roundtree’s only attempt of the game, gave Mizzou a 10-point lead with less than 8 minutes remaining, and Auburn never really threatened again.
“That was a tough shot to take,” Pingeton said of Roundtree. “She wanted it.”
Forward Jordan Frericks led Mizzou with 19 points and eight rebounds. Star guard Sophie Cunningham played 40 minutes and was the only other MU player to score in double figures. Cunningham finished with 12 points, three rebounds and two assists.
“We, granted, had a lot of turnovers,” Frericks said in a phone interview. “But on the road, I’m proud of our team for pulling it out.”
Despite the second-half effort from Auburn, Mizzou led for more than 37 minutes of the game, including the entire second half. Thanks to its own strong defense, Missouri stayed in control.
Auburn shot just 14.3 percent from the field and made just 1 of 10 three-pointers during the first half.
Erica Sanders and Daisa Alexander led Auburn (13-12, 4-9) with a combined 31 points, but they required 42 total shots to do so.
No. 8 South Carolina beat No. 20 Georgia, Alabama won for the first time ever at No. 11 Tennessee on Thursday. Those results and the Missouri win put MU (21-5, 9-4) in a three-way tie for third place in the SEC with Tennessee and Georgia.
Mizzou will play host to Tennessee on Sunday for a game that will be crucial in determining whether MU earns a double-bye in the conference tournament, just as it did a season ago.
“I think that does have a little extra motivation,” said Frericks, whose team has now won four straight games. “But I think we’re already motivated. We see the big picture. We know we have to take it day by day, but we’re excited to continue to finish out this SEC season strong.”