By Darren Hellwege
BreAnna Brock (22) is fouled under the basket by UMSL's Kiki Robinson. Brock recorded a double-double: 29 points and 14 rebounds.
We all knew coming into the season that the Missouri Tigers women’s basketball team would be young and inexperienced, and would have less margin for error than a lot of teams. But Tuesday night, they showed resilience in overcoming the loss of two key starters to beat Missouri-St. Louis in the final exhibition game of the fall, topping the Tritons 62-48.
Playing without Christine Flores and Sydney Crafton, both of whom were benched for undisclosed disciplinary reasons, the Tigers got a spectacular night from senior BreAnna Brock, who scored 29 points along with 14 rebounds and six blocked shots. Sophomore Tori Niemann added 14, shooting a perfect five for five from the field, four of them 3-pointers.
Devonna Smith was the leading scorer for UMSL with 19 points, and also led the Tritons with 10 rebounds. Smith is a transfer from Mineral Area Community College in Park Hills, Mo.
The game was a sloppy one at times for the Tigers, who trailed by as much as eight points in the first half, and had 24 turnovers on the night. The game was a close battle until the final six minutes, when Mizzou stretched a 47-44 lead by outscoring the Tritons 15-4 down the stretch. Niemann hit two consecutive three-pointers to take the Tigers lead from three points to nine and the Tigers never looked back.
After the game, Tiger coach Robin Pingeton gave little in the way of details as to why Flores and Crafton were benched, saying only “there are certain expectations and standards we’re going to run our program by and we’re not going to waver. We have certain rules, and that’s part of the process.” Pingeton said after the game that Flores would be available when the Tigers play at UT-San Antonio Friday. Crafton’s status for Friday is still unknown.
The Tigers’ youth became even more apparent without Flores and Crafton, as the Tigers started two true freshman. Kyley Simmons, whom Pingeton has already named the starting point guard, played 39 of 40 minutes on the night and scored five points, while guard Bree Fowler got the start in place of Crafton and scored six points in 21 minutes of play.
While just a few months removed from playing high school ball in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Simmons is already taking on the responsibility of the key role of starting point guard. Asked about her seven assists on the night, Simmons deadpanned, “It’s my job.”
“I love feeding other people the ball. I got a lot of work to do on my passes, just knowing when to pass and where to pass,” Simmons said.
While Simmons may have been humble about her performance, you can count Robin Pingeton as a fan. The coach was enthusiastic in describing Simmons’ play so far. “You gotta love the energy and the passion she takes the court with. She’s not afraid to celebrate big plays. She’s gritty, she’s tough, she’s firey, she sets big monster screens. It’s not about who gets the points, it’s about whatever she needs to do for our team to be successful. She’s gonna have a heck of a career here, there’s no doubt about it.”
The Tigers now start the regular season, Pingeton’s second at Mizzou after the team went 13-18 in her first season. In addition to Friday’s game the Tigers will play Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Saturday then Saint Louis on Nov. 16. They’ll have their home opener Nov. 20 against North Florida.