Story by Elaine Stockdale
Columbia, Mo.— Mizzou upset No. 14 South Carolina 65-58 at Thursday night at Mizzou Arena, booking their spot in postseason play for first time since 2007.
Tonight’s win marks the 16th win for the Tigers, their 14th home win and their first win in three weeks – breaking a five-game losing streak.
Despite the win, coach Robin Pingeton is taking it one game at a time.
“It’s absolutely nice, there is no doubt about it, but we haven’t talked a lot about win number 16,” Pingeton said. “We can’t play for win number 16, we have to play our absolute best on each given night.”
Junior Bri Kulas had a stand out performance for Mizzou tonight, finishing with 26 points and 12 rebounds.
“We were just looking to attack, to protect the power zone, and make the baskets,” Kulas said.
Kulas was dominant throughout the game, grabbing rebounds and scoring points off her own second efforts. She was 8-16 from the field and 10-13 from the free throw line.
Kulas had plenty of drive and poise when attacking the basket, crossing over and weaving through players to the paint. Her strive and grit making it to the basket and grabbing rebounds contributed to her points and free throw attempts.
South Carolina Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley spoke about Kulas’ offensive impact on the game.
“She had the will to win, it was incredible,” Staley said. “Whoever we put on her, she pretty much took advantage of. She was driving the ball, putting her head down, kept going and she had plenty of hustle of plays. She just wanted the game more. We didn’t, for us it’s unfortunate.”
The Gamecocks had early troubles tonight. They missed five shots in a row from the 10:45 to 7:27 mark of the first half, while the Tigers went on a 7-0 run. The Gamecocks’ lack of efficient shooting was costly. They shot 20-61 in the first half from the field while Mizzou hit 23-43.
“We weren’t as disciplined as we have been all year long,” Staley said in response to the Gamecocks’ shooting woes.
Kulas gave the first led to Mizzou in the 10th minute of the first half, but the Gamecocks traded baskets only to tie the game with 30 seconds left in the first half. Kulas hit two free throws in response with three seconds left to give Mizzou the led again, going into the locker rooms 28-26.
Senior Liene Priede and Kulas came into the second half firing. Kulas scored six points in the first five minutes and Priede scored four. Kulas shot above her average on the night. She crossed over, drove the ball, and took shots against double teams– anything to get Mizzou that postseason lifeline win.
Mizzou never gave up the led in the second half. The Gamecocks pushed to within three points on a number of occasion but never broke pass Mizzou. The Gamecocks made five three-point attempts in the last five minutes to try and break down the Tigers lead, but just couldn’t overcome.
Priede finished with 10 points on the night, with fellow seniors Liz Smith and Sydney Crafton also having solid games. Smith finished with eight points and five rebounds, Crafton with 11 points.
Crafton fittingly scored the first points of the first half for Mizzou, and had the ball in her hands when the game finished. She is the lone standing Tiger having played all her college basketball years at Mizzou.
Tonight’s game honored Crafton, Priede, Smith and injured Kendra Frazier.
“I’m an emotional person and coach with a lot of emotion,” Pingeton said. “I’ve been on both ends of senior night. Tonight there were special performances. You always want to send your seniors off on a good note. It’s not the end yet though, were looking forward to starting our conference tournament.”
Missouri now stands at 5-10 in the Southeastern Conference, 16-13 overall. South Carolina is now 10-5 in the SEC, 22-6 overall.
Missouri will close out the regular season on Sunday at Alabama. Tip off is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Supervising editing for this story was done by Jared Jeffries