Mizzou women race against the clock to beat Aggies, but time runs out

Story by Lauren Delany
Photos by Derek Klein

Morgan Eye takes a 3-pointer from the wing in the first half. Eye had a career high 19 points in her sixth consecutive start.

Despite a 56-52 loss for the Tigers Tuesday night, the players are holding their heads high. The Tigers, now 0-13 in conference play, fought a tough match against the defending national champion Texas A&M Aggies, who are currently ranked 14th in the nation.

Missouri is still searching for its first conference win, but close losses like these show the team’s improvement during the season. “If we allow ourselves to be defined by that scoreboard, it’s going to be a miserable season. But we’re laying a foundation and we are absolutely going to focus on these little victories that we continue to have,” said Missouri coach Robin Pingeton

A loss doesn’t seem like a victory, but it can be considered one when considering how hard the Tigers fought for a win on Tuesday night.

The Tigers got off to a slow start, giving up six turnovers and only throwing up five shots in the first six minutes of play.  The Aggies quickly pulled ahead 8-3 after gaining control on offense, but seven minutes into the game freshman guard Morgan Eye hit a clutch 3-pointer to rally the Tigers. A minute later Eye got the ball again; she gave two quick pumps fakes and shot the jumper, sinking the shot.  Eye tied the game at 8, but Texas A&M’s senior guard Tyra White hit a jumper to give them the lead.  Seconds later, Missouri senior forward Christine Flores countered the Aggie basket with a 3-pointer, pulling the Tigers ahead 11-10.

The teams alternated taking the lead throughout the first half; the score was tied twice in the first half and the lead changed four times. The Aggies began to pull ahead after junior guard Adrienne Pratcher hit a key jumper and junior center Kelsey Bone made a layup.  A growing disappointment grew among the Tiger fans as the Aggies pulled ahead, but Eye answered the fans’ grumbles by sinking three consecutive 3-pointers, shrinking the Texas A&M lead to 27-26. Eye shot 4 of 7 from behind the arc and had 14 points in the first half. With five seconds left to go in the first half, Flores hit a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to tie the game at 29.

Though the Tigers were able to tie the score at the end of the half, it wasn’t an easy journey.  Missouri fought a constant battle against the shot clock, throwing up many rushed shots and losing the ball to Texas A&M on defensive rebounds.

Neither team shot very well throughout the game, but the Tigers improved their rebounding as the half progressed and were also able to step up their defense. On defense, Missouri held A&M’s lead scorer, White, to eight points. White averages 14 points per game, but Missouri’s tight zone defense stopped the Aggies from running up the score.

“Their zone defense was good defense, they had players covered most of the time. Naturally we had some open shots that we missed and needed to hit, but their 2-3 zone was pretty effective on us,” said Aggie freshman guard Alexia Standish.

Pingeton was also impressed with the Tigers ability to put pressure on the Aggie offense. “I was really pleased with their half court defense, I think they played with their eyes, understood the scouting report, were assignment cracked; I thought they did a really nice job of clogging up the inside…overall I was really pleased with our half court defense,” Pingeton said.

The Tigers maintained the lead through the majority of the second half.  Pressured by the shot clock, freshman guard Kyley Simmons sunk a 3-pointer, which sparked the Tigers scoring binge.  Eye hit a jumper and senior forward BreAnna Brock made a free throw to keep the lead in their hands.  Shortly after, Flores made two consecutive 3-pointers to send the Tiger lead up to 43-38.

Missouri fans were ecstatic, thrilled with the possibility of the Tigers’ first conference win this season. The fans continued to cheer loudly and encourage the players to finish the game with a win, but the game took a downward turn for the Tigers when the Aggies made three crucial free throws and a layup to tie the game at 45 late in the second half.

It was a fight to the finish, with both teams making vital baskets to keep hope alive. The real contest was in the last minute, when the Aggies scored a layup to take the lead 52-50. Tiger players Eye and Sydney Crafton fouled the Aggies with under 30 seconds to go, and Texas A&M made all four free throws. When the Tigers gained control of the ball, Flores made a quick jumper but it wasn’t enough to redeem the Tigers’ lead. The Tigers fell in a hard fought match to the defending national champion Aggies, but it wasn’t the first time they faltered in a close game.

This season, the Tigers have lost three other home matches by less than four points: Northwestern (74-40), Oklahoma State (62-58), and Oklahoma (62-59). Against Northwestern, Missouri had the lead with under 3:30 left in the game but couldn’t put a stop to the shots fired from the Wildcats. Against Oklahoma State, Missouri just couldn’t hit the final shots to even the score, and the game against Oklahoma followed a similar story.

Pingeton attributes these kinds of losses to the Tiger’s inexperience in the down-to-the-wire game situations. “We’re young and inexperienced and have players on the court that just haven’t been through it before at this level,” Pingeton said.

Despite the inexperience, Texas A&M coach Gary Blair was impressed with the level of intensity the Tigers brought to the court. “Missouri outplayed us today, they should’ve won the ball game,” Blair said.

The Tigers will continue their search for a conference win on Saturday, Feb. 18, when they face Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse. The Tigers are ready to face their rivals for what could be the last time in a long time, but they are hungrier for a conference win.

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