Missouri women’s basketball has lost eight games this season by eight points or fewer.
Perhaps the most painful of those defeats came Sunday against No. 25 Arkansas, when the Tigers blew a 13-point lead in the final six minutes of regulation and fell in overtime.
Thursday night brought a different — and quite welcome — narrative.
After building a 37-32 halftime lead with eight 3-pointers in the first half, the Tigers failed to make a shot from deep in the third quarter, their cold streak helping Southeastern Conference foe Georgia take a 49-48 lead entering the fourth.
But Aijha Blackwell restored Missouri’s groove in the fourth quarter.
The standout freshman gave the Tigers the lead back for good by making a triple 17 seconds into the final period, and she scored 10 of her career-high 26 points over the last 10 minutes to propel Missouri to a 73-65 victory in Athens.
MU took care of the ball when it mattered most. The Tigers didn’t turn the ball over a single time in the fourth quarter and committed only three turnovers in the second half.
“Our kids are starting to understand pace, when to push, when to slow down a little bit,” Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said after the victory. “Ball movement was outstanding and I thought Aijha had a phenomenal game. Great overall team win for us and I couldn’t be more happy for our kids.”
The Tigers converted 13 of 14 from the free-throw line in the final period to secure the triumph. Georgia, meanwhile, had just eight tries from the stripe the whole night.
Senior Jordan Chavis, who went 3 of 3 from deep, finished with 16 points in the victory, while senior Amber Smith and freshman Hayley Frank each scored nine. Senior Jordan Roundtree scored eight. Blackwell paced the Tigers with 11 rebounds, and senior Hannah Schuchts dished out three assists.
Missouri (6-17, 3-7 SEC) earned its second road win of the season.
“It’s been a really hard year, but there have been a lot of teachable moments and life lessons mixed in there too,” Pingeton said. “For them to be playing as hard as they are right now despite their record, it says a lot about who they are and their character and their integrity.
“It finally feels like we’re playing Mizzou basketball again.”
Almost everything was going in for Missouri in the first half, as Blackwell and Chavis combined to make their first five shots from beyond the arc. Blackwell made a 3-pointer 3:16 before the break, the Tigers’ eighth make from deep in their first 11 tries.
Missouri made more 3s in the first half (8) than the Bulldogs attempted (5) before the break. The Tigers entered the night averaging 7.4 treys per game this season.
Despite the team not recording another field goal for the remainder of the second quarter, Chavis helped grow the Tigers’ lead to five entering halftime. The senior was fouled while attempting a 3 with 4.8 seconds before the break and drained a trio of free throws.
Missouri turned the ball over three times in the first two minutes of the third quarter, giving the Bulldogs (12-11, 3-7) an opportunity to start clawing away.
After a Smith layup gave Missouri a 41-36 lead, Georgia burst on an 11-3 run over the next 6:44 to take the lead. Jenna Staiti, who led the Bulldogs with 24 points, made a jumper in the final minute of the third to help the hosts take a one-point lead.
Missouri came out firing in the fourth quarter, however. Blackwell and Roundtree each made 3s within the first 54 seconds to put the Tigers in front again.
MU grew its lead as large as nine before fending off the Bulldogs’ late comeback bid.
Maya Caldwell, who scored 17 points, made a 3 with 1:06 left to pull Georgia within 64-59, but Blackwell and Frank combined to make nine free throws in the final minute for the Tigers.
Missouri is scheduled to play at LSU at 6 p.m. Monday.