South Carolina successfully weathered challenges from Connecticut, Duke, Stanford and three other top-15 teams, so naturally it was an unranked, shorthanded Missouri team that took down the undefeated defending champions.
Mizzou stunned the Gamecocks on Thursday just by taking them to overtime, then guard Lauren Hansen got through three defenders to score a game-winning layup in the final second for a 70-69 victory.
— Her Hoop Stats (@herhoopstats) December 31, 2021
That layup was preceded by 45 minutes of drama, with nine lead changes in front of a spirited Mizzou Arena crowd.
Hansen finished with 21 points and seven rebounds, while forward Hayley Frank also had 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting. The most notable players for the Tigers, however, were the players not on the floor.
Missouri was down its best player, and many others
Taking down a South Carolina team with the potential to steamroll its way through the college basketball season is impressive enough. Do it without your best player, and we're talking about a program-defining win.
Aijha Blackwell, Missouri's leading scorer with 16.6 points per game and leading rebounder (by far) with 12.7 boards per game, was unavailable for the game after a round of COVID-19 testing on Tuesday, according to the Kansas City Star. Also unavailable were Izzy Higginbottom, Micah Linthacum, Skylah Travis, Jayla Kelly and Da’Necia Trusty.
That left only eight players available for Missouri, and only seven who actually played in the game. Blackwell was at least enjoying the game as a spectator:
OMGGGGGG LFGGG DUDEEEEEE😣😣😣😣😖
— Aijha Blackwell (@AijhaAnniece) December 31, 2021
South Carolina should still probably be No. 1
Losing to an unranked team with only seven players is a bad loss, no doubt about it, but it seems questionable to believe this should be enough to unseat South Carolina from the top of the AP poll.
Yes, other undefeated teams remain, including No. 4 Arizona and No. 24 North Carolina, but no team comes close to the number of top-quality wins that South Carolina still boasts. That list includes No. 2 Stanford, No. 5 NC State, No. 6 Maryland, No. 11 Connecticut (when it had Paige Bueckers) and No. 15 Duke.
We'll see if that's true next week, but the Gamecocks are probably still the team to beat even though they've been beaten.