Story by Lauren Delaney
Game in and game out, Missouri coach Robin Pingeton preached the strength of the Tigers despite their 2-16 conference record. On Wednesday night, her team overcame the odds, and pulled off a 72-68 upset over the Oklahoma State Cowgirls.
The Tigers never lost faith despite their losing conference record. Pingeton believed they had the talent to make moves like this all season, and the Mizzou coach is excited to see the potential they have to create havoc in the Big 12 Tournament.
“I’m really proud of our girls. I’m happy for them,” Pingeton said. “We said in March records go out the window. It’s a new opportunity.”
The Tigers started strong against the Cowgirls, jumping out to an early eight-point lead. After winning the opening tipoff, senior forward Christine Flores scored within 15 seconds to put the Tigers on the board.
Mizzou opened the game with hot shooting. Flores, Sydney Crafton and BreAnna Brock quickly racked up points. The Tigers shot 5-6 on field goals in the first three minutes of the game.
Oklahoma State did rally however as they hit three consecutive 3-pointers. The Cowgirls took their first lead of the game at 15-14.
The Tigers played more aggressively and confidently than in previous games this season. They crashed the basket for rebounds and fought for each possession. Mizzou looked like a well-composed team on the court.
Instead of playing to keep up with their opponent, they were playing like front-runners.
The Tigers began to extend their lead when freshman guard Morgan Eye made a 3-pointer. Minutes later, Tiger guard Liene Priede buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key, and Eye added another 3-pointer as well.
Mizzou’s three-point shooting was on point in the first half. The Tigers went to the locker room with a 37-29 point advantage, their largest lead of the half.
Missouri’s lead continued to grow as the second half began. Crafton hit a 3-pointer after a Flores basket inside. Eye and Flores stretched the lead to 25 after consecutive 3-pointers.
Things were going well for the Tigers, but in the final eight minutes they cooled off. The Tiger defense allowed the Cowgirls to make a late comeback, keeping the Tiger’s bench players on the edge of their seats.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve been in a position to have such a big lead. I think they started celebrating a little bit early,” Pingeton said. “It was uncharted territory for us in this conference play.”
Oklahoma State recovered from Mizzou’s large advantage. The Cowgirls relied on the 3-pointer to overcome the deficit. Big 12 Freshman of the Year Liz Donohoe made a crucial 3-pointer to cut the deficit to single digits.
It was a scramble to the finish as each team fought to stay alive in the tournament.
The Cowgirls began fouling to keep the clock on their side in hopes of cutting into the Missouri advantage.
The plan worked.
Missouri struggled with their free throw shooting in the clutch. The Tigers missed three of their last four free throws in the final minute of the game.
Oklahoma State center Lindsey Keller’s 3-pointer with 21 seconds left cut the lead to a mere three points.
Mizzou was able to get the ball in despite tight Cowgirl defensive pressure, and held on to the ball for the upset win.
“This is an awesome position to be in,” Brock said. “This is just the beginning of it. We just have to keep going up.”
Missouri hopes to continue their upset streak Thursday night as they face Oklahoma at 5 p.m. in Kansas City. The Sooners swept the Tigers during conference play.
The team believes they can notch another victory and be the Cinderella story of the tournament if they play like they did on Wednesday night.