Mizzou can’t keep up for 40 minutes, lose to 13th ranked Texas Tech

Story by Darren Hellwege
Photos by Karen Mitchell

When an athletic event starts, there’s a phrase you’ll often hear: “May the best team win.”

Sydney Crafton (21) fights for a rebound with Texas Tech's Chynna Brown. Crafton had 12 rebounds.

Fact is, it’s not always the case; quite often it’s not what happens at all. Sometimes, the team that wins isn’t the team with the most talent, but the team that can play hard, focused, solid, throughout an entire nine innings or four quarters or three periods.

Or 40 minutes.

That proved the undoing of the Missouri women’s basketball team Saturday. The Tigers played very well for part of the game and gave a good battle to Texas Tech, a team that came in undefeated and ranked No. 13 in the nation by the AP. But lapses in concentration and a four-minute scoring drought in the second half were just enough for the Lady Raiders to get an elusive road win against Missouri, 69-63.

“We talk about three things: to defend, to rebound, and to take care of the ball,” said Tech coach Kristy Curry. “And there was finally a stretch in the second half where we finally did those things at a really, really high level. Those are three things you can always control with great energy and great effort.”

And it was those three things that had Missouri coach Robin Pingeton very disappointed after the loss, which drops the Tigers to 10-3 overall and 0-2 in Big 12 play. Asked about an issue with the Tigers offense, Pingeton whipped around and said, “It has nothing to do with our offense, my focus in on our defense giving up second-chance opportunities and not taking care of the ball.”

Robin Pingeton yelling directions to the team.

“We gave up 41 points off offensive rebounds and our turnovers. Forty-one of 69 coming from those two stat lines, that’s a tough pill to swallow,” Pingeton said. The Tigers had 19 turnovers and 14 offensive rebounds by Tech led to 19 second chance points.

After neither team led by more than seven throughout a well-played first half, the Tigers went up by nine early in the second and led through much of the half. But Tech slowly worked their way back into the game and tied it at 51 with 8:35 left. Shortly after, Christine Flores hit two free throws to give the Tigers the lead, part of her team-high 16 for the game.

Following those two points, the Tigers would go on a 4:21 scoring drought as the Texans scored 11 points in a row. During the stretch there would be four turnovers as Mizzou took just three shots—all of them three-pointers, all missed.

The disappointment of the mistake-filled loss had Pingeton talking big picture, somewhat more philosophical about where this team is in the drive from being a team that’s finished near the bottom of the league for years rather than just this one game.

“We talk a lot to our girls about it being a 40 minute game, and I felt like that first 20 minutes we were where we needed to be from a mentality and a toughness and being locked in, and at times in the second half, I just felt like we lost that edge a little bit,” she said.

“And that’s part of changing the culture, it doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a work in progress, to have that mentality and expect success and expect greatness, and you’ve got the discipline to execute it for 40 minutes…it’s a process.”

As Pingeton talked about the process, about changing the culture, and building discipline, she once again placed the focus on one player, who was sitting next to her in the post-game press conference.

“Sydney Crafton had what I thought was an unbelievable 20 minutes. But to learn how to sustain that for 40 minutes, that’s the next challenge for her.” Crafton finished with 14 points and a team high 12 rebounds, just her second double-double of the season.

Ten of Crafton’s 14 points came before the intermission. Tech switched to a zone defense in the second half, in large part to try to slow down Crafton, and that may have been a big part of the Tigers scoring slump late in the half.

There were times when a good close loss against a ranked team would have brought Tiger players and fans some satisfaction. Not for Robin Pingeton. 
“At some point, you gotta fight the battle of getting out of the mentality, of close is pretty good or good enough. We don’t wanna be pretty good or close, we want to finish what we started. And we will rely heavily on our seniors and our leadership and we expect them to toe the line and roll up their sleeves and continue to fight this fight.”

NOTES

• The “Big 12 farewell tour” continues. Kristy Curry expressed sadness at this being her probable last trip to Mizzou Arena. “It’s one of the nicest arenas in the country. It’s absolutely a class facility, and they meet you at the door with hospitality. I’m sad they’re leaving the Big 12, maybe in the future we can get something going. It’s a great opportunity for us to get better in playing them.”

• We’re learning how Pingeton will use her bench in conference play. Twelve players saw the court during the blowout loss at Waco earlier in the week, only eight Tigers played on Saturday. Starters Flores, Brock, Crafton and Kyley Simmons each played over thirty minutes. Bailey Gee played for eight minutes, Bree Fowler for one.

• Speaking of the Tigers’ freshman point guard, Simmons game is rounding out nicely. Perhaps her biggest problem, being shy in shooting the ball, seems to be fading in time. She’s no ball hog, but she took five shots Saturday. That’s the good news. The better news? All five were three-pointers, and she made three of them. Given that the rest of the team shot 3-18 from distance, whoever has been whispering “Shoot, Kyley, shoot!” in her ear needs to speak up some more.

WHAT’S NEXT?

• The Tigers travel to Kansas State Wednesday, Jan. 11. KSU is 10-3 overall but unbeaten in Manhattan, where they started their season with an overtime win over defending national champion Texas A&M.

• The Tigers  return home for their final Columbia matchup, for the time being, with arch-rival Kansas, on Sunday, Jan. 15. Sadly for MU fans, the Jayhawks will finish the winner of this competition overall, as they’ve won 42 times against MU, with the Tigers taking 37 from KU.

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