Eleanor Sheahan – 23 Sports

The Missouri Women’s Basketball team arrived in warmer weather on Thursday. The Tigers (6-5) took on the University of Florida Gators (9-7) for an SEC matchup. 

Both the Tigers and Gators struggled to kickstart their offense. After nearly three minutes of competitive defensive play, Faith Dut put the Gators on the board with a layup from inside the paint. Missouri’s Ladazhia Williams responded with a layup and her team quickly followed her lead. A three-pointer from Shug Dickson and Shannon Dufficy helped Missouri establish an 8-2 front. With three minutes to go in the first quarter, the Tigers found their rhythm. Dickson, Mama Dembele, Hayley Frank and Aijha Blackwell knocked down more jump shots while the Gators fell swiftly behind.

With a strong offensive run in the first, Missouri headed into the second quarter up by six. Dickson kicked it off for the Tigers with a massive three-pointer. A layup from Willams and two made free throws from Haley Troup gave Missouri a 24-13 lead. Missouri’s defense pressured Florida, but Dut, Kiara Smith and Lavender Briggs were able to fight through and keep the Gators in this game. 

It was a good thing the Tigers had an eight-point lead going into the second half. The Gators stormed into the third quarter ready for a fight. Down 29-21, Florida’s Nina Rickards grabbed two points just seconds into the game. A defensive stop by Florida allowed them to give the ball back to Rickards so she could drain a three-pointer. Shocked by Florida’s offensive momentum the Tigers defense struggled to control the floor. A fast break from Gator’s Smith added three points for Florida and Missouri’s lead fell to only one. Battling back a fourth, the game was tied 33-33 with four minutes left in the third. Missouri’s Williams made two jump shots and a layup to close out the quarter and give Missouri a four-point advantage. 

Missouri went into the fourth quarter ahead 42-38. The Tigers’ failed attempt to shoot three-points forced them to put the ball inside the paint. Missouri held on to a five-point lead as the time ticked off the clock. Gators watched as the Tigers slowly gained more and more control of the floor. Grasping at straws, Florida began to foul. Dembele, Blackwell and Frank swished all their free throws, and Florida was unable to capitalize offensively when they had possession. A turnover by Lavender Briggs secured the win for Missouri, 61-58.  

On Sunday, Mizzou will head to Lexington, Kentucky to play the Kentucky Wildcats. The Florida Gators will travel north to face the Tennessee Volunteers on Sunday. 

About Smith, Kayler (MU-Student)

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