Mizzou’s last-second replacement starter shines against UMKC

The following was contributed by KBIA’s Darren Hellwege, who, in addition to covering Mizzou women’s basketball for KBIA Sports Extra, can be heard every Saturday morning at 6 a.m. on “Thinking Out Loud: Saturday Sports.”

It’s an issue that will be key throughout the season for the Missouri Tigers women’s basketball team — depth.

Jasmyn Otote and Shakara Jones have played fewer than 30 minutes only twice each, while RaeShara Brown has played 40 twice and 39 twice. Coach Robin Pingeton will have to find other players to step in and take some pressure off the starters.

Saturday, it was necessity that led to the discovery of one potential solution when junior BreAnna Brock, who had played more than 10 minutes only once all year, got her first career start and responded with a strong outing of 12 points and 6 rebounds in helping the Tigers to a 72-48 win over UMKC at Mizzou Arena. The win, the Tigers 2nd straight, moves Mizzou to 5-4 on the year.

Brock got the starting nod replacing Christine Flores, who had started every game this year. Pingeton would only say of the switch that it was a “team discipline issue” having to do with “time management.” But she appreciated the effort Brock gave, saying “to see her take the court with confidence, to see her excel like that, it was really neat.”

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Five factors that helped send Mizzou volleyball to the Sweet 16

Consistency. For the majority of the season, the Tigers didn’t have it. Given Missouri’s melting pot of a core group of seniors with some far less experienced players, Missouri’s play — and its expectation level — fluctuated wildly between highs and lows. In non-conference, Mizzou looked like a Top 20 team in winning the Pepperdine Invitational in Malibu, Calif., but looked like an NCAA Tournament bubble team at best in going 2-2 at the Western Kentucky Invitational. The trend continued early in Big 12 play, when Mizzou looked solid in competitive losses to ranked Iowa State and Texas teams before turning around and losing to Kansas on the road.

Missouri’s consistency had been point-to-point, set-to-set for most of the year, but in Cedar Falls on Friday and Saturday, Missouri put together its most complete efforts of the season, which brings us to the next factor…

Timing. Missouri could not be peaking at a better time. The Tigers have taken 11 of their last 14 going back to one of their most pivotal matches of the year, a five-set win at Texas A&M on Oct. 13 in which momentum was completely against Mizzou after being run off the floor in the fourth set. Missouri needed its best effort of 2010 on Friday when facing No. 5 Northern Iowa, and for all intents and purposes, Missouri got it. In the process, the Tigers pulled off the biggest first-round upset since the NCAA began seeding teams in 2000. But after beating Northern Iowa, what Missouri needed most was a dose of…

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Volleyball Preview: Mizzou vs. No. 5 Northern Iowa

Missouri freshman Molly Kreklow has been one of the top setters in the Big 12 this season. Can she outplay Northern Iowa setter Bre Payton on Saturday? (Photo by JJ Stankevitz)

WATERLOO, Iowa — Mizzou volleyball makes its return to the NCAA Tournament on Friday after a two-year absence. The reward for the Tigers’ effort? A date with fifth-seeded Northern Iowa.

The matchup of the Tigers and Panthers actually makes for a compelling set of storylines at the McLeod Center in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

  • Battle of the liberos: Missouri senior libero Caitlyn Vann has been the Big 12’s award darling for much of the 2010 season, earning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week awards six times this season including each of the last three weeks. On the other side of the net, Northern Iowa libero Ellie Blankenship was tabbed as the MVC Libero of the Year despite finishing third in the Missouri Valley Conference in digs per set during conference play. Missouri’s matches with Baylor and Oklahoma were a reminder of how frustrated the Tigers can get against counterpunching opponents who dig everything and wait for mistakes. If Blankenship and Northern Iowa can get into Missouri’s heads defensively, the Tigers haven’t shown they can consistently avoid being baited into errors by frustration.
  • Balance vs. Balance: With some teams, defenses know exactly where the ball is going. Against Texas A&M, you know Kelsey Black is getting the swings. Against Texas Tech, the same is true for Amanda Dowdy. With both Missouri and Northern Iowa, the key to the attack is not a single attacker but rather a bevy of options from which the setters can choose. Amy Braun leads Northern Iowa in swings but has hit only .161 for the season. After Braun’s 935 swings, UNI has five other players with at least 525 swings, four of whom have hitting percentages better than .250. Missouri has its own options in workhorse hitters Paola Ampudia and Julianna Klein supplemented by Brittney Brimmage in the middle. The division of labor will be a telling storyline on Friday.

PHOTO GALLERY: Georgetown 111, Mizzou 102 (OT)

Mizzou drops heartbreaker to Georgetown in Kansas City

Marcus Denmon

Missouri guard Marcus Denmon walks off the floor in despair following Mizzou's 111-102 overtime loss to Georgetown at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. (Photo by Ross Taylor)

Missouri was 0.3 seconds from a statement win in Kansas City on Tuesday night. But in the amount of time it took for a 3-pointer from Georgetown guard Chris Wright to fall through the net, Mizzou’s win disappeared.

Despite fighting back from a double-digit deficit for a large portion of the first half, No. 8 Mizzou was unable to seal a comeback victory against No. 14 Georgetown, as the Tigers fell in overtime, 111-102.

KBIA Sports Extra will have much more as the night continues, including postgame interviews with coach Mike Anderson and several Missouri players.

Tale of the Tape: Mizzou Volleyball vs. No. 5 Northern Iowa

Missouri and fifth-seeded Northern Iowa aren’t scheduled for first serve at the NCAA Tournament until Friday, but here’s a quick look at how the teams’ résumés stack up with one another. Later in the week, we’ll look at specific matchups that could determine Friday’s first round matchup.

Missouri 20-10 (12-8, 5th in Big 12)
Northern Iowa — 30-2 (18-0, Missouri Valley champions)

Missouri 45
Northern Iowa — 4

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Two years later, Mizzou volleyball returns to NCAA Tournament

After a two-year absence, senior Julianna Klein and the Missouri Tigers are headed back to the NCAA Tournament. (Photo by JJ Stankevitz)

Since the turn of the century, NCAA Tournament appearances have been a point of pride for the Mizzou volleyball team.

From 2000-07, the Tigers made eight consecutive tournament appearances and were a heartbreaker away from a Final Four berth in 2005. But while fighting injuries and inexperience in missing the tournament during the 2008 and 2009 seasons, Missouri’s “eight consecutive appearances” talking point turned into “eight appearances in 10 seasons,” a phrase printed at the bottom of the team’s weekly media notes.

That tagline in the notes, meant to promote the school’s 21st century success, almost backhandedly served as a constant reminder of the team’s absence from postseason play from 2008-09. But on Sunday, the two-year drought was pronounced officially dead.

Mizzou (20-10, 12-8 Big 12) was selected to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday and will travel to Cedar Falls, Iowa to face No. 5 Northern Iowa on Friday. Missouri finished the regular season fifth in the perennially-strong Big 12 Conference and had an RPI of 41 prior to a season-ending loss against Oklahoma.

The winner of Missouri/Northern Iowa is slated to face the winner of Arizona/Northwestern as part of the Pennsylvania Regional. The region runs through three-time defending national champion No. 4 Penn State.

The top five finishers in the Big 12 all earned tournament bids, with Missouri being joined by No. 2 Nebraska, No. 9 Texas, Iowa State and Oklahoma.

LINK: NCAA Bracket Release
LINK: Mizzou tournament résumé

PHOTO SLIDESHOW: Missouri 35, Kansas 7

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Mizzou Volleyball: This is your NCAA Tournament résumé

With a 12-8 record in Big 12 play, Paola Ampudia (9) and the Missouri volleyball team should earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. (Photo by Ross Taylor)

The Missouri volleyball team entered Wednesday’s match against the Oklahoma Sooners with presumably little more to play for than simply end-of-season momentum, but that may not make a five-set loss any less painful.

Missouri stormed out to a two-set lead against the Oklahoma Sooners on Senior Night on Wednesday, but Oklahoma fought back to defeat the Tigers in Missouri’s regular season finale at the Hearnes Center in Columbia.

With the conclusion of the match, Missouri’s fate now rests entirely in the hands of the NCAA Tournament selection committee. Missouri will find out its destiny on the Division I selection show, currently scheduled to air on ESPNEWS at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Mizzou volleyball, this is your NCAA Tournament résumé:

Overall record: 20-10
Conference record: 12-8
Conference finish: 5th
NCAA RPI: 41st
Total sets: 68-38

Weeks receiving votes in AVCA Top 25: Nine
Record vs. Ranked Teams: 1-5
Record vs. Teams Ranked OR Receiving Votes: 1-7

Signature win: 3-1 win at No. 12 Iowa State (Nov. 6)
Questionable losses: 3-1 loss at Kansas (Oct. 6), 3-1 losses to Virginia Tech and Western Kentucky at the Western Kentucky Invitational (Sept. 10-11)

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VIDEO: Gary Pinkel on linebacker Andrew Wilson

Missouri’s linebacking corps entered the 2010 season as one of the team’s most heralded unit. Weakside linebacker Zaviar Gooden was Mr. Athleticism. Strongside linebacker Andrew Gachkar has been Mr. Consistency. Middle linebacker Will Ebner, when not fighting injuries or suspensions, is the hammer.

Lost in the shuffle was little-known redshirt freshman Andrew Wilson. But as the season has progressed and the linebacking corps has fought attrition, Mr. Unknown has become Mr. Versatility for the Missouri Tigers.

Wilson has started three of Missouri’s eleven games at middle linebacker in place of Ebner, but he’s also picked up the strongside position as well. On Monday, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel had high praise for Wilson: