By Darren Hellwege
The Missouri Tigers women’s basketball team knew Friday would be their final game before Big 12 play starts. At least in the back of their minds was the knowledge that the nation’s best team awaits (at Baylor on Wednesday, Jan. 4.) Mizzou had, we’re told, a great practice Thursday. Coach Robin Pingeton said she thought the team was “locked in.”
Leaving one to wonder…what on earth happened?
The Tiger team we saw in the first half not only wasn’t ready to play the Baylor Lady Bears next week, they weren’t ready to play Sam Houston State Friday night. Tough defense in the closing moments preserved a one-point Mizzou lead at halftime after trailing by as much as seven in the first half. The Tigers made just one of 11 3-pointers in the half, yet kept shooting them instead of attacking the basket.
Fortunately for the Tigers and the season-high 1,875 fans at Mizzou Arena, there is a halftime and a chance to start over again.
The Tigers came out like a totally different team after intermission and after a 23-5 run were able to coast to a 66-48 victory.
“It’s like we didn’t have our game notes or our scouting report, we just laced them up and and went out to play,” Pingeton said. “They came out and were really dialed in in the second half. They knew they laid an egg in the first.”
BreAnna Brock led the way for Mizzou with 16 points and 11 rebounds, her third double-double of the season. Christine Flores was off her usual scoring mark but also had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Her average of 22.8 points a game led the conference prior to the weekend.
Pingeton said she didn’t have to say too much at halftime, that her seniors knew what had happened and how to fix it. “We have some great seniors, so you really don’t have to say a lot,” she told the media after the game.
Pingeton was also pleased to note that the Tigers got solid play from their bench, with nine points from Bailey Gee and seven from Bree Fowler. Freshman Morgan Eye had early foul trouble and scored six while playing 14 minutes.
The Tigers end non-conference play at 10-1, a record anyone would be pleased with. But life gets far, far tougher very soon as the Tigers start their final year of play in the Big 12 in Waco, Texas, where they’ll face not only the nation’s best team in Baylor and best player in Britney Griner.
But the Tigers look forward to the challenge. “We just need to play with common sense on defense, with discipline on defense,” Flores said. Brock added, “Every team in the Big 12 is tough.”
The dichotomy between the two halves Friday may provide a answer as to how to go after the Lady Bears. In the first half the Tigers struggled, playing tentatively and settling for set shots. In the second half they got aggressive, attacked the basket and won easily. A similar strategy was used two years ago, when the Tigers pulled off a major upset over nationally ranked Baylor.
“I can promise this team will play hard, and stay united as a team, we have the players to surprise some people,” Pingeton said. “We’re gonna roll up our sleeves, go to work, and whatever happens, happens.”
- The Tigers face No. 1 Baylor on January 4. Baylor is unbeaten with wins over Tennessee and Connecticut.
- The Tigers’ conference home opener is Jan. 7 against No. 13 Texas Tech, which is unbeaten at 11-0. Tech is ranked as high as they’ve been in six years.
- The Tigers next face another road test, taking on Kansas State in their final visit to Manhattan. K-State is 9-3 with one of their losses to then No. 15 Purdue.
- Facing 10,000 screaming fans is tough for any collegian but Pingeton said freshman point guard Kyley Simmons is ready. Pingeton said Simmons had a bit of a “chip on her shoulder” when it came to the Big 12 teams. Having played high school ball in Iowa and AAU in Nebraska, Simmons has one season to show the rest of the Big 12 what they missed out on in not recruiting her more seriously before the Tigers take their act to the SEC.
- Sydney Crafton’s development continues with eight points and six rebounds against Sam Houston. After coming off the bench most of the year, Crafton had her third start on Friday.
- The Tigers got strong play from the bench Friday, including 17 minutes from Bree Fowler, who shot three-for-five and is starting to make better decisions. If the Tigers can 12 minutes from Bailey Gee off the bench, that will be a big help. Even if she doesn’t score nine points often, she is one of the leaders on the team, a fierce defender, and could be just the spark the team needs off the bench from time to time.