MU women’s basketball locked in for February stretch run | Mizzou Women’s Basketball
Attempting to snap a six-game losing streak, Missouri women’s basketball returns home to face Vanderbilt and Alabama on Thursday and Sunday, respectively. The Tigers are sitting squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble and need some form of positive momentum to start rebuilding their resume.
Stop the series
After starting SEC play with three straight wins, Missouri has lost six consecutive conference games. Shooting struggles, turnovers and rebounds all contributed, but now the Tigers enter a new month with all of their goals still within reach.
“If we’re going to get to the NCAA Tournament, we’ve got to have a really big February,” Tigers coach Robin Pingeton said. “It’s important that we approach every match as if it were a tournament match.”
To get back on the right side of the bubble, Pingeton knows his team just needs to do the little things right to win.
“The challenge for players is just to play a little more seriously, a little more connected,” Pingeton said. “I think there is a breakdown in our communication that we need to improve defensively.”
Voices in the locker room
Going through a losing streak like this can be incredibly taxing on a team’s confidence and overall mental well-being. In situations like these, a team needs veteran leaders to step in and take control.
“Those of us who are veterans, (Hayley Frank), Lauren (Hansen), Mama (Dembele), myself… even Katlyn Gilbert,” Haley Troup said of who took the lead. “Even though it’s his first year here, (Gilbert) is mature and has been through things at Notre Dame.”
Frank, Hansen, Dembele and Troup have now all played three seasons together at United. They became team leaders under Pingeton, which was exactly what the head coach envisioned.
“I recruited a bunch of competitors,” Pingeton said. “They want to win as much as anyone, so we just have to stick to the process.”
Racking up wins in February is a must if the Tigers are to attempt to erase bad memories from last year’s NCAA Tournament draft day.
For starters, Missouri (14-8, 3-6) needs to get back into the win column.
“We’re going to have one,” Troup said. “It’s going to happen, and we know it has to happen to end the year strong.”
Commodores looking for another SEC win
Vanderbilt sits 10-12 overall with a conference record of 1-7. But, while this game may seem like a much-needed opportunity for a comfortable win in Missouri, the Commodores are coming off their first conference win and have some momentum.
Vanderbilt beat Texas A&M 88-79 on Sunday to overtake them in the standings. Graduate guard Ciaja Harbison led the way with 41 points on 14 on 19 shooting against the Aggies, tying the program’s single-game points record. The transfer from St. Louis is averaging 19.6 points per game and has scored more than 30 points in three games this season.
According to Pingeton, the key to stopping Harbison and the Commodores lies in transition play.
“You play so much of the game in transition defense,” Pingeton said. “I think we did a decent job when we got the teams above us playing and we were ready. We need to continue to have that connectivity and use our voices.”
Missouri hosts Vanderbilt at 8 p.m. Thursday. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network.