By Darren Hellwege, KBIA Sports Director
The Missouri Tigers women’s basketball team hasn’t had a lot of success in recent years, and came into Saturday’s Big 12 opener against Texas with two straight losses. So, when the team shot 26 percent in the first half and trailed by 12 with 2:26 left, it would have been easy for confidence to wane.
It would have been a mistake.
The Tigers fought back behind Christine Flores’ seven points in the last two minutes of regulation, and Flores blocked a last-second shot by the Longhorns’ Ashleigh Fontenette to send the game to overtime. Then, Jasmine Otote hit a three-pointer that gave Mizzou a lead it would never relinquish as the Tigers upset No. 22 Texas 85-80 at Mizzou Arena.
“I didn’t see any quit in our kids,” said coach Robin Pingeton. “We had some pretty heated time out situations. I asked them to dig in a little deeper, and they just continued to look me right in the eyes, grit their teeth, and compete.”
The win moves Mizzou to 9-6 overall and 1-0 in conference play. Texas is 11-3 and 0-1. The win over the Longhorns gives the Tigers their second win over a ranked team this season, as they’d previously defeated Georgetown in the Paradise Jam in the US Virgin Islands.
The change from missing shots—many of them layups and short jumpers—to the strong shooting of the second half was obviously the most important factor for the Tigers, who trailed at halftime 33-29. RaeShara Brown, who led the Tigers with 27 points, shot just 2-9 in the first half, and was 7-11 in the second. Flores made just two of her six first half attempts, but missed only one of seven in the second.
However, the shooting numbers that may be most significant belong to Tiger senior Jasmyn Otote. Otote missed all 11 shots she had taken in the last three games and had a shooting percentage of just 23 percent this season. But with just over five minutes left in the first half, the ball found its way to Otote as the shot clock was in its final seconds. With no time to think, Otote fired, and hit from three-point territory. After that, Otote hit three more shots, including the crucial trey in overtime, to give her a career-high 14 points.
“I didn’t have time to think about it,” said Otote. “Maybe I was thinking about it too much, but after that first one, I just relaxed.
“Everyone has always had confidence in me. It’s great to have your teammates behind you, they know, Jas, you can knock it down.”
Otote wasn’t the only Tiger player with a career high Saturday, as Brown’s 27 points and nine rebounds off the bench for BreAnna Brock also set a career high. But Brown’s praise was for teammates, including Brock, Trenee Thornton and Bailey Gee who made key contributions off the bench, Gee grabbing two vital rebounds in just three minutes play late in the second half. “This was a team win, collectively,” said Brown. “We couldn’t have won without anybody’s play tonight, hats off to them for playing their tails off and giving all they had.”
The Tigers will take to the road next, playing at Texas Tech this Wednesday. The Red Raiders came into play Saturday with a 13-1 record. The Tigers return to Mizzou Arena next Saturday to play Texas A&M, currently ranked No. nationally. But, as the Tigers proved again on Saturday, they can beat ranked opponents.