COLUMBIA — On Senior Day in Mizzou Arena, seniors Shannon Dufficy and Shug Dickson set the tone.
Dufficy opened the game with a 3-pointer off an offensive rebound, and by the time Sunday’s game was over, Missouri had made 18 3s on the way to a 96-80 blowout of Florida. Dufficy had a season-high 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting in her first-ever start at Missouri, finishing 5-of-7 from 3, and Dickson added a season-high 20 points and totaled six assists.
The team shot 18-of-28 from beyond the arc, matching a program record for made 3s in a game set against Auburn in 2013 and repeated against Bradley the following season.
“It definitely gave me confidence, and I know looking around everyone else was so excited for me, so I think that, along with everyone else coming out with such hot hands, was definitely something that set the tone for us,” Dufficy said.
Missouri (8-9, 4-8 Southeastern Conference) finished a season sweep of Florida (10-11, 3-10 SEC) by scoring its most points in an SEC game since beating Mississippi 100-65 on Feb. 23, 2017. Sunday’s game was the Tigers’ first home SEC win of the season.
Dickson, a St. Louis native who transferred to Missouri by way of Tulsa then Texas Tech, had a large contingent of family and friends in support.
“It just felt good to have my family there,” she said. “That’s a big support system so them cheering on, it just felt good to play.”
Dufficy’s family back in Melbourne, Australia, could not attend because of travel restrictions, but sent in a video message telling her how proud of her they were. She said having another Australian on the roster, Sara-Rose Smith, has helped her deal with being away from family, and having Dickson standing next to her in the tunnel during the message kept her from crying.
“Honestly, if I compare this year to the other four years I’ve been (in America), I would say this year has definitely been the hardest, just knowing that I can’t go home and knowing that there is no way that they can get here,” Dufficy said. “It is tough. I love that they were a part of my day, and it was it was good to see them.”
Hayley Frank had a season-high 26 points and set a new career best with six made 3s, finishing 6-of-8 from range. After missing last Sunday’s game with a foot injury, Aijha Blackwell had 21 points and a game-high 14 rebounds, her 11th double-double of the season. She was visibly ecstatic after the game, throwing her arms in the air and wearing a big grin as she ran into the home tunnel with her teammates.
“It’s obviously been a tough year for us, and on Senior Day, you just want your seniors to have a good experience,” Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said. “It feels good to see the smiles and the laughter in the locker room. I’m proud of the resiliency of our team and their ability to just kind of roll up their sleeves and go back to work day after day. But at some point, there’s got to be a prize at the end of it, right? At some at some point you want to see the fruits of your labor pay off, and certainly, this is one game, but it was a big game for us.”
The group of Frank, Blackwell and Dickson were Missouri’s first trio to score 20-plus in the same game since Alyssa Hollins, Shakara Jones and Jessra Johnson did so Nov. 29, 2008, in a triple overtime loss to Holy Cross.
Dufficy hit her first five 3s of the game, three in the first half, as Missouri built a 45-30 halftime advantage. After a Dickson 3 with 6:10 left in the half put the Tigers up 11, at 31-20, the lead was never reduced to single digits.
Missouri came out of the locker room with its hair on fire, scoring 32 points in the frame. Frank had 14 of those, shooting 3-of-4 from 3, and the team was 7-of-9 from beyond the arc in the frame and 17-of-24 (70.8 percent) to that point in the game.
The last of Dufficy’s 3s, which splashed in with 9:06 remaining in the game, tied the program record and gave the Tigers their largest lead of the game at 80-57. Florida got within 10, at 86-76 with 3:31 to play after a 13-2 run, but Missouri answered with a 10-0 run as Dufficy, Dickson, Frank and Blackwell hit paint shots.
“It gives us momentum now,” Dufficy said of the win. “Like, we have the confidence, we knew we could do it on our home court and in the SEC, we’ve had so many close games, but I think just getting this win just gives us gives us that extra motivation and confidence in the future.”
Micah Linthacum (Jefferson City High School) played eight minutes, recording a pair of rebounds and scoring a layup with 4:52 left in the second quarter.
Starting forward/center LaDazhia Williams turned her ankle in practice Friday, according to Pingeton, and wasn’t fully able to do lateral movements. She was on the sideline and in uniform but did not play. Starting point guard Mama Dembele also turned her ankle and played just 15 minutes, leaving the game for good in the third quarter, but had seven assists while on the court as the team finished with 22 assists on 36 made shots and only turned the ball over 10 times.
Pingeton pointed to the opportunity remaining for Missouri in its next two games — Thursday at home against Tennessee and Sunday at Mississippi State in the regular-season finale — as well as the SEC Tournament beginning March 3 as a chance to make some noise and potentially gain entry to the NCAA Tournament.
She also pointed out the team’s defensive efforts have been poor for most of the season, and Sunday was no exception in her eyes. Kiki Smith scored a game-high 35 points for the Gators, the Tigers gave up 15 second-half free throw attempts and Missouri was out-rebounded 40-35 and 19-13 on the offensive glass.
“Defensively, we continue to have a lot of work to, do a lot of breakdowns on the defensive end,” Pingeton said. “Gave up too many offensive rebounds, put them on the free throw line too many times, and I think a lot of that got covered up with just a really efficient offensive night.”