By Nate Allen
Special to the News-Times
FAYETTEVILLE - The nationally 15th-ranked Missouri Tigers’ women’s basketball team couldn’t shoot through the ice in Columbia, Mo., to play Sunday’s scheduled SEC game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Walton Arena.
But with the Columbia airport ice thawed, they sure shot through Arkansas Monday night.
Hitting nine of its first 10 shots, including 6-of-7 treys, Mizzou shot to a 33-14 first quarter lead and a 49-29 half before prevailing 84-58 over the Razorbacks in Monday night’s SEC game delayed by a day at Walton Arena.
For the game, Mizzou shot 30-of-58 from the field including 11-of-24 threes and 13-of-14 free throws after two days mostly spent at the iced in at the airport until arriving in Fayetteville at 3 p.m. Monday with the game tipping off at 6.
Apparently sitting at the airport beats practicing, Missouri coach Robin Pingeton surmised.
“Maybe I need to give them more time off for fresher Iegs because they shot it well,” Pingeton said, noting Arkansas’ recent play had the Tigers’ attention to be on their game.
First-year coach Mike Neighbors’ Razorbacks unfortunately had seen Monday’s movie before.
Mizzou stormed to a 28-16 first-quarter lead and 51-29 half over Arkansas in a Jan. 21 SEC game at Columbia and finished nailing 13-of-25 3-pointers in an 88-54 rout.
The Razorbacks hoped for better things Monday having last Thursday taken No. 11 Tennessee to the wire before losing 90-85 at Walton after completing a home-and-home SEC sweep over the Alabama Crimson Tide the previous Sunday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Mizzou dashed that hope off its start to finish first 10-minute quarter, particularly its start from which Neighbors lauded his team for trying hard to recover.
“We played so much better than what we did against them up there other than that first spell where we see how potent their offense can be,” Neighbors said, which Pingeton previously volunteered to media about Arkansas before Neighbors’ turn.
“That first 5:24, I think we were on pace to give up 186 because they had 23 at the first media.
“But our kids took the first punch and then kept showing back up.
“So I know we’re making progress.”
Progress despite the final score, Neighbors said, noting when hot Mizzou’s offense will scorch the best of them.
“They could go to the Final Four,” Neighbors said. “There are teams going to the Final Four with this formula. We only take two less shots than they do, get to the foul line eight more times than they do and commit six turnovers (to Mizzou’s 11) and we lose by 26.
“That shows you how potent their offense is. That’s what wins big games and beats quality teams.”
Rebounding helped, too. Mizzou outboarded Arkansas 40-25.
Jailyn Mason (15 points) and Bailey Zimmerman (14, points including 3-of-5 treys) kept firing away for Arkansas as Neighbors rested senior Devin Cosper (29 points against Tennessee) and center Kiara Williams once Monday’s game was clearly out of hand with an SEC trip to Kentucky looming Thursday.
Sophie Cunningham (a game-high 18 points, including 4-of-5 treys), Jordan Frericks (12 points) and Jordan Chavis (12) led Mizzou’s scoring.
Arkansas falls to 12-13 overall, 3-9 in the SEC going into its Kentucky visit, then returns to Walton for Sunday’s 2 p.m SEC game against LSU.
Pingeton’s Tigers advance to 20-5, 8-4 in the SEC and visit the Auburn Tigers in Thursday night’s SEC game in Auburn, Ala.