Mizzou faces South Carolina for senior night in last home game

Story by Elaine Stockdale

For their last regular season home game at Mizzou Arena, the Missouri women’s basketball team will play host to the South Carolina Gamecocks tomorrow night at 7 p.m. Mizzou will set out to end a five game losing streak while being one win away from a .500 record.

Missouri needs one win – either tomorrow night at home or on the road against Alabama Sunday – to attain the .500 record, making them eligible for the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT).

The Tigers currently stand at 15-13 overall, 4-10 in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). South Carolina is 22-5, and 10-4 in SEC play. The teams have only met each other once in program history, at the Duke Classic in 2004. The Gamecocks defeated Mizzou 72-60 in the game but will make their way to Columbia, Mo. tomorrow for the first time.

Thursday’s senior night game recognizes Mizzou’s Sydney Crafton, Liz Smith, and Liene Priede.

Coach Robin Pingeton spoke about the emotion in the lead-up to Thursday night.

“Senior nights are always tough, there are a lot of emotions,” Pingeton said. “It’s different for everybody, but I think our challenge to our players is play with those emotions. But you got to make sure you funnel and channel them in the right the direction.”

Sydney Crafton (21)

The Tigers recruited Sydney Crafton out of Jefferson City High School in 2009. Throughout her college career, the 5-foot-10-inch guard quickly developed to become a valuable scorer and offensive weapon for Mizzou.

As a senior Crafton has started in 25 games this season, and the experienced guard coming a long way since her early days as a freshmen for Mizzou, playing in only six games in her freshmen.

Sydney Crafton (21) drives to the paint in Mizzou’s 61-56 loss to Mississippi State on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013.

Sydney Crafton (21) drives to the paint in Mizzou’s 61-56 loss to Mississippi State on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013.

Crafton played under former Mizzou coach Cindy Stein in her early years as a Tiger. She has grown from playing for both Stein and Pingeton and has learned a lot from the different styles of each coach.

“It wasn’t an easy route playing under a new coach, but because of her I got a different view of how things work,” Crafton said. “With Coach Stein it was a different program, but I’m thankful. It was definitely hard.”

Crafton has had a number of notable games as a senior. Crafton scored a career-high 26 points against Southeast Missouri State University last year. She also led Mizzou with 20 points in their loss to Vanderbilt just under two weeks ago. She has led Mizzou with the most rebounds in 10 games this season in the SEC.

Crafton has the highest field goal percentage for Mizzou and second highest rebounding average.

Pingeton spoke about coaching Crafton over the past few years.

“I love that girl to death, I’m really proud of her,” Pingeton said. “I’ve seen a ton of growth in her as a student-athlete and as a basketball player. She has potential. She’s a very passionate kid and her teammates love her.”

Liz Smith (45)

Liz Smith began playing for the Tigers as a junior in 2011. Smith transferred to Mizzou from Johnson Community College where she played 72 games as a sophomore.

“It was definitely different coming here in transition, but the route I took I wouldn’t have done it any other way,” Smith said. “You have to adapt quickly, that was my hardest part.”

Smith attributes her quick development to practice and a strong mentality.

“The practices here are so different to my old system, focusing everyday on what you need to do to get better and focus on that really helped me improve over the years,” Smith said.

Liz Smith (45) grabs an offensive rebound in Mizzou’s 61-56 loss to Mississippi State on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013.

Liz Smith (45) grabs an offensive rebound in Mizzou’s 61-56 loss to Mississippi State on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013.

The six-foot-one-inch center currently averages seven points per game.

Smith’ notable games include her first career double-double against Murray State last year, when she totalled 19 points and 11 rebounds. Smith was also the leading scorer with 15 points against the Florida Gators three weeks ago, and most recently Smith managed 15 points in the Tigers overtime loss to LSU last Friday. Smith has also been Mizzou’s leading rebounder in six games this season.

Smith said when she leaves Mizzou, her biggest asset from playing with the Tigers will be her mental strength.

“My mindset, there’s always something you can get better at,” Smith said. “I just know whatever I do, doesn’t matter what career I do, I’ll be able to strive and get better every day,”

Liene Priede (32)

Liene Priede is Mizzou’s international recruit from Riga, Latvia. Priede was recruited to Mizzou by Coach Robin Pingeton in 2011 from Independence Community College in Independence, Kansas.

Liene Priede (32) finishes as leading scorer with 14 points in Mizzou’s 61-56 loss to Mississippi State on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013.

Liene Priede (32) finishes as leading scorer with 14 points in Mizzou’s 61-56 loss to Mississippi State on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013.

Priede spent two years playing at Independence and has also played nationally for the Latvian junior national team in numerous European championships.

The five-foot-ten-inch guard played in every single game in her junior season for Mizzou.

“It’s been different, it’s a fun experience,” Priede said. “I came here to America wanting to try something new. Kansas was a small town and I had fun there because everybody knew each other.”

As a senior for Mizzou, Priede has played 28 games and started in 11.

Priede had a career high 18 points against LSU last Friday, as she shot 7-for-11 from the field and 4-for-6 from beyond the arc. It was her first game as leading scorer for Mizzou in their inaugural SEC season.

“It’s been fun playing, I’ve had great teammates around me and great coaching staff,” Priede said. “I’ve enjoyed every moment to be here.”

Kendra Frazier (34)

Kendra Frazier is Mizzou’s red shirt senior. The center, who was recruited from Labette County in Kansas, re-injured her right knee last year after it had already kept her from playing when she first injured it in 2010.

The six-foot-five-inch senior first tore her ACL in the spring of 2010, but then reinjured it in the summer last year despite a second surgery in 2011. Last year Frazier told the Columbia Tribune “I’ve just never really gotten over it completely.” The Columbia Tribune reports that Frazier said if she were not to return for the 2012-2013 season, her playing career would be over.

Frazier played in 19 games for the Tigers in her sophomore year and 17 games as a freshman. She graduated from Mizzou in December 2012.

Priede and Smith both began playing for Mizzou in their junior years, while Crafton and Frazier are the only seniors this year to have played all four years with the Tigers.

Supervising editing for this story was done by Jared Jeffries

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