Mizzou getting schooled in the SEC
By the Associated Press
COLUMBIA, Mo. — After playing three top-10 teams in a span of 10 days, Missouri coach Robin Pingeton isn’t worried despite losing those games by an average of 34 points.
“We can’t be defined by that scoreboard,” she said.
Twelve of Missouri’s 13 players only have one year or less of playing experience, and Pingeton believes her team is learning game-by-game. So while Sunday’s 69-43 loss to No. 6 Kentucky may not look pretty on the schedule, she thinks the team improved since losing 84-39 Thursday at No. 9 Tennessee.
“I didn’t feel like our girls were deflated, I didn’t think they hung their heads,” she said emphatically. “I don’t feel like they’re feeling sorry for themselves. I feel like they’re embracing this challenging, athletic SEC conference. And we’re going to get better and we’re going to grow, and we’re going to have some fun along the way.”
Sydney Crafton led the Tigers (12-6, 1-3 Southeastern Conference) with 11 points and nine rebounds. The team now gets a much-needed week off.
“Now we know what to expect,” Crafton said. “So going into these other games, we should know what to expect and how to react and what it takes. I like it.
“It can only get better from here.”
Missouri entered the day leading the country with 9.9 3-pointers per game, but only made 2 of 20 from behind the arc and shot 35.3 percent from the field Sunday.
“I can’t say that I felt like all of them were great looks,” Pingeton said, “but I felt like we had enough good looks, that if we continue to have the poise that we need to have, those shots will fall for us.”
DeNesha Stallworth scored 17 points and A’dia Mathies added 14 to help Kentucky (16-1, 4-0) extend its school-record winning streak to 15 games. The team scored the first six points of the game and never trailed, winning its 16th game this season by at least 18 points.
The reigning SEC Player of the Year and this year’s preseason conference player of the year, Mathies is used to the attention. But Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell talked after the game about Stallworth’s unselfishness despite leading the team in scoring Sunday.
“She doesn’t care about anything else but winning,” he said. “But she does recognize that she does need to play well for us to win. She just can hurt you in so many ways.”
Stallworth’s layup with 10:08 left in the first half gave Kentucky an early 23-4 lead. Missouri, which started only 1-of-9 from the field, countered with the next nine points but could get no closer, snapping its 11-game home winning streak.
Morgan Eye, whose 4.1 3-pointers per game ranks first nationally, scored on all three attempts inside the arc but failed to make any of her four shots from long range. Bri Kulas scored nine points but only shot 4-for-16 from the field and 1-for-8 on 3-pointers.
Jennifer O’Neill added 11 points for Kentucky, which made all of its 12 free throws attempts. The Wildcats gradually extended their lead in the second half, and the widest margin occurred after O’Neill’s layup with 27 seconds remaining.
Kentucky leads the country with a plus-10.3 rebounding margin, but only outrebounded the Tigers 40-37. The Wildcats won the turnover battle, 15-11, though, and benefitted from 16 second-chance points and taking 16 more shots than Missouri.
“Coach emphasized that before the game, just crashing the offensive boards,” Mathies said. “That we felt like we had more athleticism than them.”
Kentucky started 4-0 in SEC play for the second consecutive season, having won its first 10 conference games during the 2011-12 season. Much of that success flows from the team’s full-court press. Asked if Missouri’s reliance on 3-point shooting can work in the SEC, Mitchell replied by evaluating his own team.
“I’m absolutely convinced that, sometimes when you play a different style in our league, good things can happen for you,” he said. “We, three years ago, adopted a very radical style compared to the rest of the teams in the league and it’s been very successful for us.”
Missouri resumes play on Sunday, Jan. 20 at Ole Miss for a scheduled 2 p.m. CST game. The next home game is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 24 against Arkansas, with tip off at 7 p.m.