Missouri defense shines, leads team to 59-54 upset over ranked Vanderbilt

Story by Wesley Roesch
Photos by Samuel Quintela

Missouri forward Kayla McDowell (20) beats Vanderbilt defenders MarquÕes Webb (22) and Kylee Smith (23) to the basket for a layup. McDowell had 13 points and eight rebounds off the bench.

Missouri forward Kayla McDowell (20) beats Vanderbilt defenders Marqu’es Webb (22) and Kylee Smith (23) to the basket for a layup. McDowell had 13 points and eight rebounds off the bench.

COLUMBIA — Missouri freshman Kayla McDowell leapt for the ball after a missed 3-point attempt by Vanderbilt senior Jasmine Lister. With seven seconds to go and Missouri  leading by three, McDowell knew that her next move could seal the game.

“I just held on to (the ball) as tight as I could,” McDowell said. “I knew I was gonna get fouled.”

McDowell pulled the ball down and was fouled, sending her to the free-throw line. She sunk the last two shots of the game, giving the Missouri women’s basketball team a 59-54 victory over No. 16/No. 18 Vanderbilt.

Missouri improved to 14-7 (3-5 Southeastern Conference) with the win, while Vanderbilt dropped to 16-5 (5-3 SEC).

The Tigers played great defensively, holding the Commodores to a season low 54 points. Vanderbilt was also held to a

22.2 percent field-goal percentage, making only 14 of 63 shots. The 14 field goals made were also a season low for the Commodores.

“I thought our defense was outstanding tonight,” Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said. “We thought going into the game we’d try to keep them on their heels a little bit, switch it up between our man and zone. I really liked our matchup there in that first half and we just felt like we wanted to stay with it.”

The first half was when the Tigers really started to pick things up as the offense was clicking as well as it has all season. The Tigers went on a 16-2 run in the latter part of the first half, partially due to the team continuing an unselfish style of play that involved spreading the ball around.

The Tigers finished the game with 13 assists, ranking third in the SEC in that category.

Missouri went into the second half with a 33-20 lead, and the team had to look to its defense to stay in the game. In the second half Missouri held Vanderbilt to 7-for-33 shooting, but Vanderbilt made 19 of its 21 attempted free throws.

The amassment of fouls allowed Vanderbilt to slowly creep back into the game, making it a one-point game with 52 seconds left.

“(Vanderbilt) had a good little run, but we didn’t let them get past us,” Missouri sophomore Morgan Stock said.

It was Stock that made Missouri’s next two free throws after being fouled by Lister, giving Missouri a 57-54 lead.

This eventually led to McDowell’s two game-sealing free throws, giving Missouri the win and breaking the team’s four-game losing streak.

However, Pingeton preferred not to view the win as one that breaks a losing streak.

“A couple people out there are talking about ‘Gosh, you got over the hump, finally.’ I just don’t see it that way,” she said. “I feel like there has been so many great things that have happened over the last couple weeks. We are so much better than we were a year ago. We knew it was just a matter of time until we could get one of these to finally show up on the scoreboard.”

The road doesn’t get any easier for Missouri, as it has two tough road tests coming up on Sunday against No. 7/No. 8 South Carolina and Thursday against No. 14 Louisiana State University.

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